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NBC Washington Bureau chief, Tim Russert, is dead at 58.

A "Russert" search on this blog yields a lot of hits. We have mentioned him often on the Bosque Boys, usually obliquely (in keeping with his role as a facilitator of the American political conversation) and usually with a grudging fondness.

Here is an extended impression of him after an appearance on Washington Journal with Brian Lamb back in May of 2006:

Tim Russert followed. Maybe I am a fool for his working-class persona, but I cannot see how people can generate hatred for Russert. He tells great unassuming stories about being a kid from Buffalo who made good. He offered a meaningful account of how and why his father recently opted for a Ford Crown Vic over a Mercedes, Lexus, or Caddy. He read a moving letter attacking the New York Times Magazine for their sloppy journalism in re a feature that dealt with his personal memories of his mom.

Later, a passionate caller castigated Russert for being in the tank for the Bush administration. Ironically, the indignant caller provided an almost inverse interpretation of the Condi Rice interview from David Limbaugh. Why weren't you as rough on Rice as you were on Nancy Pelosi last week? She accused him of letting his corporate bias cloud his news judgment (FYI: the corporate news conspiracy: all the news orgs are owned by a few corporations who filter and water down the news).


Tim Russert was at the center of American politics for a long time. I will miss him. May God comfort his family, and may God rest his soul.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Judging from the debate on Meet the Press, Rick Santorum is finished. Put PA in the Democratic column. Give Bob Casey credit for the intelligence to "go with the flow" and keep his mouth shut while Tim Russert debated Santorum. Russert successfully pinned him to George Bush and Iraq, which is not difficult and completely justified; Santorum is one of the President's most loyal friends and supporters in the Senate, and he will rightly win or lose on that association.

An aside: running for office against an unpopular incumbent seems like a lot of fun. Casey refuses to take responsibility for anything silly his party ever did. He is for a "balanced federal budget" and "killing Osama." How will he accomplish any of that? That is a discussion for another day. Mainly, he will be unlike Rick Santorum.

Undoubtedly, much ink will be spilled pointing out how Tim Russert leaned on this one--but all that is beside the point. Rick Santorum knew the rules of engagement going in. This was no surprise attack; he should have prepared for battle. If he brought his best, I must conclude, with some personal sadness, that the interesting political career of Rick Santorum is all but over.
Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The best three hours of television of any given week are usually Friday mornings, 6:00 to 9:00 CST, on C-SPAN when Brian runs the early-bird call-in show, "Washington Journal" (click on the link for 5/26 for an archive of the program).

Today Brian held two separate hour-long chats with "gonzo" historian Douglas Brinkley and NBC Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert (ironically, both guests were the subject of recent Bosque Boys posts and discussion, follow the links above). Is Brian a fan of the BB? Not likely, but I can hope. Something to work toward...One of these days, maybe.

The Brinkley interview was pretty standard. Brinkley is a regular contributor to C-SPAN. What does Brian think of Brinkley? Impossible to say. Brian gives no clues.

Brian's genius is his ability to let guests be themselves. He is the virtuoso of distributing rope. Brinkley was Brinkley, and, at times, his self-inflicted unintentional indictments were devastating. Brian just watched impassively.

In minute 54 of the sixty-minute exchange, Brian asked nonchalantly how does one go about writing a 755-page work of history in only nine months? He added: doesn't the editing process alone on a work that size take about nine months?

Doug Brinkley credited his passion and work ethic and associated himself with literary greats of the past who understood that writing was a matter of putting your seat in the seat of your chair. Lamb followed-up with: were you angry?

One last point (from me not Brian; I do not have his gift for subtlety): What do you call a history that is written in the midst of a critical event, penned by an author who has lost all historical objectivity and then rushed to press? Journalism.

Tim Russert followed. Maybe I am a fool for his working-class persona, but I cannot see how people can generate hatred for Russert. He tells great unassuming stories about being a kid from Buffalo who made good. He offered a meaningful account of how and why his father recently opted for a Ford Crown Vic over a Mercedes, Lexus or Caddy. He read a moving letter attacking the New York Times Magazine for their sloppy journalism in re a feature that dealt with his personal memories of his mom.

Later, a passionate caller castigated Russert for being in the tank for the Bush administration. Ironically, the indignant caller provided an almost inverse interpretation of the Condi Rice interview from David Limbaugh. Why weren't you as rough on Rice as you were on Nancy Pelosi last week? She accused him of letting his corporate bias cloud his news judgment (FYI: the corporate news conspiracy: all the news orgs are owned by a few corporations who filter and water down the news).

This morning reaffirms my C-SPAN thesis: if you watched all three channels of C-SPAN twenty-four hours per day, you would know everything that is going on in American politics.

23/05: Media Bias

Wizbang this morning links to an analysis by David Limbaugh of the Tim Russert interview with Condi Rice. David Limbaugh shines a devastating light into the dark corner of media bias and the way popular opinion is shaped through manipulation. A must read.

I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. I would like to think that certain newsmedia figures do not intend to be biased, but are simply shallow thinkers, or unaware of their own biases, or repeating media cliches. But over the last few years it has become impossible for me to give the benefit of the doubt any longer. I think some of these folks must be aware of what they are doing.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Two questions concerning public relations 101 come to my mind right now:

1. Why do organizations concerned with promoting global warming awareness (and alarm) keep scheduling their conferences in places like Upstate New York and Minneapolis in the dead of winter?

2. Why do presumably intelligent Democratic Party leaders keep sending John Murtha out on Sunday talk shows to argue their point?

From Meet the Press:

MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe it [our mission in Iraq] is totally hopeless?

REP. MURTHA: Tim, I, I believe that we canít win this militarily. I believe it has to be done diplomatically. Thatís why I think redeployment is the first move...So itís a matter of, you canít win it militarily. It has to be done internationally; it has to be diplomatically.

MR. RUSSERT: But to the point, why not take the chance, the glimmer of hope? Or do you just think itís totally hopeless?

REP. MURTHA: I, I donít see any chance of us winning this militarily. I think theyíre going about it the wrong way. Theyíre finally starting to change. Theyíre talking to Iran. Thatís whatís going toógoing to prevail there. Thatís where youíre going to have stability. Youíre going to have international communication....

And on it went (full Meet the Press transcript here).

If the Democrats really have overplayed their hand and lost their momentum, Murtha is a big part of that development. Although she is a deft leader in so many ways, Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave the President and his stalwarts a rich and unexpected political gift with her decision to feature Representative Murtha as the unofficial Secretary of State for the House.

In contrast, Lindsey Graham came on air afterwards and gave his customary flawless performance as a pragmatic voice of reason. Never a sure thing when it comes to support for the President, Graham expertly leverages his reputation as a McCain-like maverick to give credibility to supporting the mission.

SEN. GRAHAM: The truth is that Jack Murthaís a wonderful fellow. [But] He is using the readiness issue to stop the surge. And I want to work with Jack on readiness, but this is not about the readiness issue. He said publicly this is about stopping something heís against. The Democrat Party is the dog that caught the car. What do you do now? The left is saying get out yesterday. The reason we donít have a vote on cut off funding is because the American public understand thatís [ir]responsible.

So all of these efforts to micromanage the waróIíve been a military lawyer for 20-something years. Some of these resolutions are just nightmares for a commander. You can fight al-Qaeda, but you canít fight people involved in sectarian violence. You can go here, and you canít go there. The Congress cannotóthereís a reason thereís only one commander in chief.

So, if youíre not willing to cut off funding, which is the Congressí responsibility, then everything else really hampers General Petraeus. Itís really a signal to him that, ďWe have no faith in you.Ē Either stop him from going or give him the resources to do their job. Everything is else is just political theater. Thatís dangerous.
Category: Campaign 2008.6
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Some quick notes on the Democratic debate in Las Vegas (the rebroadcast of which I watched beginning at 5:35 this morning on C-SPAN2):

1. When Barack Obama finally had to answer the "driver's license for illegals" question, his position proved even more confusing and seemingly half-baked (even with two weeks to think about it) than Mrs. Clinton's now famous hiccup.

2. All candidates seem to agree that if we just get the federal government MORE involved in education, everything will be coming up roses. Most of them don't like "no child left behind," which up until now has been the most extensive federal intervention in education ever. Why? The current program is tainted by Bush fingerprints. No surprise there. One thing on which they all agree: the President has never done anything right. But they all promise to get a centrally managed national education infrastructure off the ground and correctly supervised, which will solve all current problems. By the way, they also agree that the teachers unions are doing a heckuva job.

3. Bill Richardson said (in essence, twice) "democracy and human rights" in foreign lands trumped vital national interests. Obama and a few others said we could do both. The adults (Hillary Clinton being one of them) explained that our hallowed American principles should drive foreign policy, and they are not necessarily mutually exclusive with national interest--but, sometimes, they diverge. When this happens, a president takes an oath to protect national interests (not promote democracy and human rights abroad). It was a telling exchange.

4. Richardson, Kucinich, and Obama all called the "surge" a failed strategy and called for an immediate withdrawal of US troops in Iraq. Mercifully, Clinton was not asked to comment on the obvious success of the surge. I would have liked to hear her answer.

5. Hillary nailed the "gender card" response. Wolf Blitzer asked if anyone else wanted to follow her. Everyone but John Edwards wisely stayed mum. Edwards, the most feminine candidate on the stage, prattled on a bit about equality and fairness and then tailed off. Did I hear a niner in there?

6. Hillary is back. Obama and Edwards are where they have always been (number two and a distant third, respectively).

7. CNN was okay. Wolf Blitzer is not nearly as talented as Tim Russert or Brian Williams, but he is a pleasant fellow. The audience participation portion was worthless. Anyone want to talk about questions that are stiff and staged? They were all out of central casting in terms of what Democrats think Americans look like.
Category: Campaign 2008.12
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
After hearing a few snippets from FOX News Sunday and Meet the Press in between other activities, here are a few quick thoughts concerning what I saw and heard:

1. On Meet the Press, "Obama's Chief Strategist David Axelrod squared off against Hillary Clinton's new chief strategist Geoff Garin." I know nearly nothing of Geoff Garin (other than he is a career pollster and Harvard grad, 1975). Evidently, he is a well-liked and knowledgeable political insider, but he was embarrassingly lame in his advocacy of his candidate today. Hillary needed this last-minute shuffle like a hole in the head. I felt sorry for her--and him. I kept wincing and dreading the inevitable post-appearance phone call, hoping that Hillary wouldn't blow her top and erupt all over him once the excruciating exchange finally concluded.

The one bright spot for Garin? He was so inept that Russert took on the role of devil's advocate--but that was small consolation.

All in all, another poor tactical choice on the part of Team Clinton.

2. On FOX News Sunday, Chris Wallace interviewed regular Obama/Clinton surrogates, Dick Durbin and Charles Schumer.

Ordinarily, Schumer wins this match-up on "sound and fury..." alone--but not today. Schumer (and this was true of Garin as well) was too busy denying obvious truths to ever get off the defensive.

"Hillary actually loves the lunatic left-wing activist base of the Democratic Party, regardless of what she might have said when she thought no one was listening at a private fund raiser."

Why shouldn't she be happy with the "nutroots" loonies who have rejected her moderate approach, elevated a half-term senator whom we barely know to one rung from the Democratic nomination, and forced her into advocating policies that would probably doom her candidacy--even if she were to find some way to somehow throw an ultra-miraculous "Hail Mary" to pull this thing out?

What's not to love?

By the way, these nutroots Daily Kos/Huffington Posters overplayed their hand in Connecticut in 2006, losing the election and chasing Joe Lieberman out of the Democratic Party. Do any of the adults in the Party of Jackson worry about recent history repeating itself?

Of course, Hillary meant everything she said about the left-wing nuts--and she is absolutely right. Not only did they ruin her glide-path to the nomination, they have also roiled up a Democratic Party General Election slam dunk.

Good for us. I don't know if all that is enough--but it helps. From a purely strategic point of view, we would much rather face an anti-NAFTA, anti-war Democratic Party than the mid-2007 Hillary Clinton version crafted to assure the heartland on defense and woo hardhats with promises of domestic competence.

The only problem--what if the Moveon.org rendering actually wins?
Some Perspective: At this point during the last election cycle four years ago, the talking heads were anointing Howard Dean as the presumptive Democratic Party nominee for president. But a funny thing happened on the way to the coronation.

Is Hillary the latest Howard Dean? I doubt it. Dean was an insurgent nobody from an out of the way state who caught fire unexpectedly and then flamed out just as suddenly. Dean embodied "flash in the pan."

Hillary Clinton is a second-term senator from the Empire State. She is the wife of a popular and incredibly powerful former president. She has been a mega public figure for sixteen years, thoughtfully charting a path to the Oval Office for nearly that long. She is loaded with cash, she has assembled the best campaign organization in recent memory, and she is the most disciplined candidate of my lifetime.

An aside: The Okie Gardener has previously compared Mrs. Clinton to Richard Nixon. No comparison to Nixon is ever favorable, but RN had some notably similar attributes necessary for success in politics. Like Mrs. Clinton, Nixon was not a naturally talented politician, but, like Mrs. Clinton, he made up for his lack of innate skill with hard work and tenacity. "You gotta want it to win it," and he usually wanted it more. Mrs. Clinton is a hard-charging, take-no-prisoners, tough-minded steamroller. She is a lot like Nixon in that regard.

What happened in the debate on Tuesday? Tim Russert and Brian Williams hammered her, and she staggered for a moment. Her stonewalling on the library question, her decision to pander to the ACLU-liberals rather than the working-class, rank-and-file Democrats on immigration, and her tendency to go overboard on sisterhood combined to leave her uncharacteristically dazed, confused, and momentarily vulnerable. Arriving at the debate intent on pounding the frontrunner, her desperately frustrated opponents saw an opening and pounced.

Nobody Knows Anything
--but I think that those who are expecting Mrs. Clinton to fold like a house of cards at the first sign of trouble are reading her wrong. Hillary never craters. She never backs down. She never apologizes. She comes out swinging and plays through the pain, always pressing forward.

Hillary's Dilemma: Of course, her primary problem--the one that actually poses the biggest threat to her campaign for the nomination--continues to be her moderation on foreign policy.

Ironically, Mrs. Clinton's biggest obstacle in the Democratic primary is her sanity. For all of us who are rubbing our hands together with glee this week, we are not thinking very strategically. Of the Democrats who have a chance to win the nomination, Hillary is the one we have the best chance at beating. More importantly, of the Democrats who have a chance to win the nomination, Hillary is the one who is least likely to radically alter the course of American politics if she wins.

Hillary Clinton, like Richard Nixon, is a hard-boiled realist, who understands national vital interests as well as political necessities. She will throw rhetorical bones to the left but govern in the center, because she will want to be reelected. She will employ all the usual suspects of the American foreign-policy making establishment and pursue a moderate-to-firm course in international relations. She, like her husband, will accept the necessity of "torture" under certain dire circumstances. She will not be what we want, but neither will she rock the boat very much. No socialist revolution. No unilateral retreat from American interests abroad. No Pollyannaish, Jimmy-Carter-like naivetť.

John Edwards is fairly close to reality when he says a "vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for the status quo."

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Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A few weeks ago I described Ron Paul as "haunting."

Why? In your heart you know he is right. I observed that "if it were not for Iraq, we would love him."

An aside: it is also true that, ďif it were not for Iraq, the media would hammer him, and we would have never heard of him." Case in point: today NBC's Meet the Press led off with an exclusive interview with Ron Paul. With the Iowa Caucuses less than a fortnight away, Tim Russert chose to feature a candidate with no chance whatsoever of winning that race or any race. This is remarkable.

This week respected conservative columnist John Derbyshire penned an essay entitled, "Liberty! Liberty! Why Iím for Ron Paul."

In brief, here is why I cannot support Ron Paul:

From Paul's website:

"Brief Overview of Congressman Paulís Record:

* He has never voted to raise taxes.
* He has never voted for an unbalanced budget.
* He has never voted for a federal restriction on gun ownership.
* He has never voted to raise congressional pay.
* He has never taken a government paid junket.
* He has never voted to increase the power of the executive branch.
* He voted against the Patriot Act.
* He votes against regulating the Internet.
* He voted against the Iraq war.
* He voted against NAFTA and CAFTA.
* He votes against the United Nations.
* He votes against the welfare state.
* He votes against reinstating a military draft.
* He votes for conservative principles.
* He votes to cut government spending.
* He votes to lower healthcare costs.
* He votes to end the war on drugs.
* He votes to preserve civil liberties.
* He votes to secure our borders with real immigration reform.
* He votes to eliminate tax funded abortions & to overturn Roe v Wade.
* He votes to protect religious freedom."

What's not to like?

Paul is a man of simple solutions. For example, see his statement on foreign policy (again from his website):

War and Foreign Policy

"The war in Iraq was sold to us with false information. The area is more dangerous now than when we entered it. We destroyed a regime hated by our direct enemies, the jihadists, and created thousands of new recruits for them. This war has cost more than 3,000 American lives, thousands of seriously wounded, and hundreds of billions of dollars. We must have new leadership in the White House to ensure this never happens again.

"Both Jefferson and Washington warned us about entangling ourselves in the affairs of other nations. Today, we have troops in 130 countries. We are spread so thin that we have too few troops defending America. And now, there are new calls for a draft of our young men and women.

"We can continue to fund and fight no-win police actions around the globe, or we can refocus on securing America and bring the troops home. No war should ever be fought without a declaration of war voted upon by the Congress, as required by the Constitution.

"Under no circumstances should the U.S. again go to war as the result of a resolution that comes from an unelected, foreign body, such as the United Nations.

"Too often we give foreign aid and intervene on behalf of governments that are despised. Then, we become despised. Too often we have supported those who turn on us, like the Kosovars who aid Islamic terrorists, or the Afghan jihads themselves, and their friend Osama bin Laden. We armed and trained them, and now weíre paying the price.

"At the same time, we must not isolate ourselves. The generosity of the American people has been felt around the globe. Many have thanked God for it, in many languages. Let us have a strong America, conducting open trade, travel, communication, and diplomacy with other nations."

Again, what's not to like?

Every word of the above statement is true on its face. But Congressman Paul's truth is simplistic and impractical.

How can we expect "open trade, travel, communication, and diplomacy with other nations," if we, as Dr. Paul suggests, bring all our troops home? The American military presence all over the world for the last century has been necessary to protect American business interests. Spouting libertarian rhetoric concerning free trade and travel--but not acknowledging the reality of power politics--is ill-considered at best.

While Congressman Paul advocates trimming the government back to constitutional proportions, in truth, we cannot turn the clock back to 1787, for we are unwilling to forego the luxuries of the modern world.

There is beauty in the ideal--but oftentimes the perfect ignores reality.

I would be healthier if I ate brown rice and pinto beans exclusively for the rest of my life.

As automobiles are merely depreciating hunks of metal, I would be better off opting for a minimalist vehicle that reliably gets me from place to place with the least fanfare and cost.

But I continue to eat sumptuous foods and drive more car than I need. As a people, we continue to want to live in the most powerful nation in the history of the world. As a national community, we are unwilling to give up our comfortable lifestyles and our security--even if for most of us, in our hearts, we know Paul is right (at least in the long term)--and our "empire of liberty" must fall someday.

But not today.
I have already said that the Speech was historic and remarkable and marvelous (albeit ultimately unsatisfying).

But what about the politics? The Horse Race?

Remember: Obama is an insurgent candidate locked in a death match with the political equivalent of "Anton Chigurh," the relentless pursuer from No Country for Old Men. To win in the end, he has always needed to run a near-perfect race with no big mistakes. After performing flawlessly for months, coming mere inches away from realizing the impossible and closing out this race on March 4th, was this crisis Obama's fatal error?

Dr. Politics, Steffen Schmidt, commented here today:

"Rest assured that only political geeks like us heard or read the speech. At best voters got some fleeting report on local news that Obama gave a speech. The GOP is compiling short, grainy black and white mini-spots of Wright overlaid with an unflattering picture of Obama that floats in a scary way across the screen.

"The stuff Wright said may be justified for blacks but it is not acceptable to most whites, Jews, Asian Americans, and many Hispanics.

"I think the "O'Mentum" has been stopped dead in its tracks."

Insightful.

Obama has two major problems coming out of Philadelphia:

1. The Speech, while interesting and provocative, placed the comments of Reverend Wright at the center of the campaign. This is not insignificant. We (the conservative world) and ABC News have been talking non-stop about this revelation-slash-crisis since last Thursday, but this morning, in order to analyze the monumental address, NPR was forced to introduce the story to its listeners--as they had virtually ignored it until yesterday. The Newshour with Jim Lehrer was in a similar position--having ignored the story--save for the end-of-the-week political wrap-up with Shields and Brooks--Brooks having pronounced Obama's disastrous dissembling from last week "the perfect statement of dignity" and "a glimmer of hope" in a world otherwise gone terribly wrong. You just can't buy that kind of analysis. Even Tim Russert soft-pedaled the emerging crisis on Meet the Press Sunday, burying the discussion in the midst of other more important issues.

Last night and today, in order to cover the Speech, and demonstrate how transcendent the moment, tenets of basic journalism forced the mainstream media into explaining the context of the modern "Gettysburg Address." The downside of all the superlatives: Jeremiah Wright and the Trinity United Church of Christ are now fair game through November.

Why did Obama do it? Because he had no choice. He understood the wild fire that was raging underneath the radar and gaining ground. He made the best of a bad situation, but, all things considered, he suffered a net loss: his eloquent treatise on race in America does not overcome the "mainstreaming" of Jeremiah Wright. This is one "crazy uncle" that Obama desperately needed to stay in the attic.

2. Worse yet, after so skillfully avoiding the potential pitfall over the course of his long campaign, the crisis forced Obama into making race the central motif of his candidacy. Goodbye subtlety. Goodbye quiet undertone. Goodbye plausible deniability. This development makes his run exponentially more challenging.

Again, why did he do it? Again, he had no choice. He was desperate. Only a wider and more majestic discussion of race could temporarily insulate him from the growing firestorm.

What now? Even as he basks in the glow of nearly unanimous admiration, he is bloodied and staggered. He may well be mortally wounded. And as Obama continues to hemorrhage, Mrs. Clinton gets stronger with each passing day.

Remember the equation: the superdelegates get to pick whomever they deem the most electable candidate come fall--and the rationale for public consumption need not conform to the reality.

What can save Barack Obama?

Perhaps a liberal backlash. Right now Obama's tormentors are the very same folks good liberals love to hate: Hannity, Limbaugh, FOX News, the conservative blogosphere.

The conservative schadenfreude could save him, just as it resurrected Mrs. Clinton in New Hampshire.

But that strikes me as unlikely.

As the Swabian Prince suggested earlier this week, Mrs. Clinton will more likely benefit from the hard feelings against the vast right-wing conspiracy that deprived America of its transcendent Deliverer.

Perhaps the question now is this: will the Clintons attempt to rehabilitate Obama sufficiently for a run as VP--or is he already too radioactive?

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