Monday, December 19, 2005

Russert Watch

Marty Kaplan has an interesting commentary on Tim Russert's Meet the Corporate Press (a show I was too busy to watch today):

Is there anyone more useless than Condi Rice? She was Russert's first guest, and he gave her ten feet of rope to hang herself with. On the eavesdropping front, she actually said, "I am not a lawyer" -- not once, but three times. Even Richard Nixon said "I am not a crook" only once.

Russert repeatedly asked her why Bush didn't get approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court before wiretapping Americans, and her answer was that Bush had Constitutional authority because he's commander-in-chief; that he has "statutory authority"; that he got authority from the Attorney General and the National Security Agency's general counsel and inspector general; and that he briefed Congressional leadership.

What part of the Constitution? "I'm not a lawyer." What statute? "I'm not a lawyer." Those are administration officials, not the FISA court. "I'm not a lawyer."


When Condi wasn't channeling Nixon, she painted herself as a big fan of the 9/11 Commission -- you know, the one whose formation the Administration fought tooth and nail, and the one whose successor group flunked BushCo on protecting us from terrorism. When, defending Bush's lawbreaking, she cited the 9/11 Commission and said how important it was for us to "connect the dots," I couldn't help thinking of her testimony, when she said that the Presidential Daily Briefing headlined "Bin Laden Determined to Strike Within US" was "a historical document." If that's how well she connected the dots then, no wonder she's doing so badly at coloring within the lines now.


The guests on the reporters' roundtable that followed were Gwen Ifill of PBS and John Harwood of the Wall Street Journal. This is the moment in the show when Washington reporters totally repress the fact that they are human beings, citizens, or people with emotions and moral compasses, and instead treat what is going on solely as political theater. In this segment, it's all meta-, all-the-time. Polls, strategy, tactics: you bet. Outrage, disbelief, authenticity: what do you think this is, Comedy Central?