February 08, 2004

Tim Russert's Interview of George W. Bush

Tim Russert didn't seem to me to do a very good job. He didn't ask what seemed to me the natural follow-up questions in his Meet the Press interview with George W. Bush. Here are three examples from the Transcript for Feb. 8th:

Russert: Why do you think you are perceived as such a divider?

President Bush: Gosh, I don't know, because I'm working hard to unite the country.  As a matter of fact, it's the hardest part of being the president.  I was successful as the Governor of Texas for bringing people together for the common good, and I must tell you it's tough here in Washington, and frankly it's the biggest disappointment that I've had so far of coming to Washington.

I'm not blaming anybody.  It's just the environment here is such that it is difficult to find common ground.  I‘ll give you a classic case:  the Medicare bill.  The Medicare bill was a tough vote, but the Medicare bill is a bill that a lot of people could have signed on to and had it not been for kind of the sense of, well, ‘Bush might win, we might lose,’ you know, or ‘Bush might lose, we might win’ kind of attitude.

And… but I will continue to work hard to unite the country.  I don't speak ill of anybody in the process here.  I think if you went back and looked at my comments, you will see I don't attack.  I don't hold up people.  I talk about what I believe in, and I lead, and maybe perhaps I believe so strongly in what we are doing around the world or doing here at home.

Natural follow-up:

Let's take Medicare. Right now conservative Republicans induced to vote for the Medicare bill are outraged because your staff kept from them last fall the fact that the Medicare actuaries thought the bill would be much, much more expensive than $400 billion over ten years. Wasn't keeping this information from Congress an extremely divisive thing for you to do? And will it be possible to repair the damage this has done to your relations with the Republican caucus?

What Russert actually did: dropped the topic and segued into "Foreigners hate you."


Russert: How do you respond?

President Bush: Political season is here.  I was  I served in the National Guard.  I flew F 102 aircraft.  I got an honorable discharge.  I've heard this  I've heard this ever since I started running for office.  I  I put in my time, proudly so.

I would be careful to not denigrate the Guard.  It's fine to go after me, which I expect the other side will do.  I wouldn't denigrate service to the Guard, though, and the reason I wouldn't, is because there are a lot of really fine people who served in the National Guard and who are serving in the National Guard today in Iraq.

Russert: The Boston Globe and the Associated Press have gone through some of their records and said there’s no evidence that you reported to duty in Alabama during the summer and fall of 1972.

President Bush: Yeah, they re  they're just wrong.  There may be no evidence, but I did report; otherwise, I wouldn't have been honorably discharged.  In other words, you don't just say "I did something" without there being verification.  Military doesn't work that way.  I got an honorable discharge, and I did show up in Alabama.

Natural follow-up:

But you didn't fly 102 aircraft, did you? They didn't have any in Alabama, and when you returned to Texas in November 1972, you still didn't fly. In May 1973 your superior officers wrote that you hadn't shown up for duty in Texas, and you were grounded because you didn't show up for your annual physical exam.

What Russert actually did: Asked Bush if he would open his files, and let Bush claim that he had already done so in response.


President Bush: It's essential that I explain this properly to the parents of those who lost their lives. Saddam Hussein was dangerous, and I’m not gonna leave him in power and trust a madman.  He's a dangerous man.  He had the ability to make weapons at the very minimum.

For the parents of the soldiers who have fallen who are listening, David Kay, the weapons inspector, came back and said, “In many ways Iraq was more dangerous than we thought.”  It's  we are in a war against these terrorists who will bring great harm to America, and I've asked these young ones to sacrifice for that.

A free Iraq will change the world.  It's historic times.  A free Iraq will make it easier for other children in our own country to grow up in a safer world because in the Middle East is where you find the hatred and violence that enables the enemy to recruit its killers. And, Tim, as you can tell, I've got a foreign policy that is one that believes America has a responsibility in this world to lead, a responsibility to lead in the war against terror, a responsibility to speak clearly about the threats that we all face, a responsibility to promote freedom, to free people from the clutches of barbaric people such as Saddam Hussein who tortured, mutilated  there were mass graves that we have found  a responsibility to fight AIDS, the pandemic of AIDS, and to feed the hungry.  We have a responsibility. To me that is history's call to America.  I accept the call and will continue to lead in that direction.

Natural follow-up:

I don't understand. You said Saddam Hussein would be able to attack the United States with nuclear weapons within months. How can a Saddam Hussein with no weapons of mass destruction at all--with no nuclear weapons program--be more dangerous than that?

What Russert actually did: Asked if the Iraq campaign was a "war of choice" or a "war of necessity".


On the other hand, a bunch of Russert's initial topic-opening questions were zingers. He tried--it was just the follow through that was absent. Some of the zingers:

now that we have determined there are probably not these stockpiles of weapons that we had thought, and the primary rationale for the war had been to disarm Saddam Hussein, Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Defense Secretary, said that you had settled on weapons of mass destruction as an issue we could agree on, but there were three.  “One was the weapons of mass destruction, the second is the support for terrorism, and third is Saddam's criminal treatment of his Iraqi people.” He said the “third one by itself is a reason to help Iraqis but it's not a reason to put American kids' lives at risk, certainly not on the scale we did.”

This is what John Kerry had to say last year.  He said that his colleagues are appalled at the quote "President's lack of knowledge.  They've managed him the same way they've managed Ronald Reagan.  They send him out to the press for one event a day.  They put him in a brown jacket and jeans and get him to move some hay or move a truck, and all of a sudden he's the Marlboro Man.  I know this guy.  He was two years behind me at Yale.  I knew him, and he's still the same guy.” Did you know him at Yale?

That's a very important point.  Every president since the Civil War who has gone to war has raised taxes, not cut them. Raised to pay for it.  Why not say, I will not cut taxes any more until we have balanced the budget?  If our situation is so precious and delicate because of the war, why do you keep cutting taxes and draining money from the treasury?

You do seem to have changed your mind from the 2000 campaign.  In a debate, you said, "I don't think our troops ought to be used for what's called 'nation-building.'"

If the Iraqis choose, however, an Islamic extremist regime, would you accept that, and would that be better for the United States than Saddam Hussein?

The night you took the country to war, March 17th, you said this:  "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."

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Comments

Why aren't you allowed to interview this guy?

Posted by: MattS on February 8, 2004 08:34 AM

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"Mr. President, How do you spell nukular?"
"Mr. President do you know any synonyms for dangerous?"
"How are we going to deal with really dangerous threats now that you have overstretched our military, created much more resentment toward American among unemployed youth in the world, and put our economy at risk, with other nations able to sell off their investments and leave us in an economic meltdown like Argentina?"

-How many times did he say dangerous?
Pitiful performance by both parties.

Posted by: Wahine on February 8, 2004 08:45 AM

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As I watched, I felt that if Timmy had been
more aggressive with aWol the result would
have been to elicit sympathy for the poor inarticulate idiot.

The great American public can stand him jumping
on Dean, but a too-tough interview in this case
would not work out.

Posted by: Bartolo on February 8, 2004 08:51 AM

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I think you hit the nail right on the head. Russert had some good questions to start off topics, but failed in numerous instances to ask follow ups. Moreover, during the Iraq portion of the interview, Russert pretty much utterly failed to either: a) insist Bush answer certain questions, or, more importantly, b) challenge Bush when he stated things that clearly were factually incorrect.

Posted by: Mike B. on February 8, 2004 08:53 AM

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on the bright side, didn't George W. just promise to release his military records?

Posted by: wcw on February 8, 2004 09:41 AM

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I agree that the follow-ups were awful and there are almost too many to mention, but this is the one I wanted to hear the most:

On the Resident's response to his budget and the deficit, why not ask about the Resident's own programs that are not funded and why not ask why the budget doesn't include $50B his own administration expects to need for Iraq/Afghanistan?

Also, why no follow-up to the straightforward "No" on if he know Kerry at Yale? Doesn't that response mean he is saying Kerry, who says he knew Bush at Yale, lied about that?

Why not at least ask how, if they were both in Skull & Bones at the same time he managed to not know Kerry?

Posted by: Lindsey on February 8, 2004 09:43 AM

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By the way, he also called Social Security an entitlement program

Posted by: Lindsey on February 8, 2004 09:49 AM

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Bartolo
I missed the actual broadcast and have only the MSN script to go on, but felt the real damage was done with the AWOL issue. It's hard to gauge the sophistication of the audience, but coming so soon after last weekend's ballgame, Bush's defence seemed wimpy.
Not an outright fumble but a long ways from a quarterback sack, No? Is Joe average going to name him MVP?
(Please, Oh God, let the next ratings show that Kerry has stretched his lead).
We need to know that Chomsky was over the top. That manufacturing is a work in progress --not a fait a compli.

Posted by: calmo on February 8, 2004 09:52 AM

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Yes, Russert's last question to Bush on the subject of his military duty was if he would release "all the records" and Bush, unintentionally I think, said "absolutely". Up to that moment, his argument had been to imply that all the records were available and this was old news.

I completely agree that Russert didn't follow up well. On the other hand, he threw Bush quite a few hardballs. My sense was that Russert had prepared his questions, but had not prepared to deal with Bush's responses. My comment to the person I watched it with was that Russert should have (if he didn't) roleplayed the interview with someone beforehand as, I'm sure, Bush did. He should have had follow-ups prepared for many of Bush's responses. Russert should have had an anti-spin prepared for every spin. I don't think doing so would be inherently hostile, it'd be good journalism.

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on February 8, 2004 09:56 AM

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Surely Russert got one useful thing: Bush said he was authorising all authorities to releasse his military records.

Now, what will it take to beat the press into asking for the pay slips and the matching income tax returns?

It's about the President's character, stupid.

Posted by: David Lloyd-Jones on February 8, 2004 09:56 AM

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While both Kerry and Bush were in Skull and Bones, it is a senior society. Kerry is '66 and Bush '68.

I don't believe they were in the same residential college, but it is likely that Kerry would have known of Bush. Kerry would have been a pretty prominent student and it is likely that Bush would have know of him as well.

Posted by: TCS on February 8, 2004 10:12 AM

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Lindsey, Social Security is an entitlement program. That's not a controversial label. Everyone calls it that. And TCS is right. Bush and Kerry weren't in Skull and Bones at the same time.

I thought Russert's follow-ups weren't very good -- although I think the only egregious misses were "How could Saddam disarm if he didn't have the arms in the first place?" and something about the absurd omissions (AMT, Iraq/Afghanistan) from the budget proposal. But I think the context is important here. This was an interview Bush wanted in order to shift the terms of the debate. He wasn't trying to tread water. He was trying to improve his standing in the public's eye. And I don't think this interview did that at all. I thought he seemed thoroughly unconvincing and repetitious. And a draw -- or whatever you want to call it -- is a loss for him at this point.

Posted by: Steve Carr on February 8, 2004 10:26 AM

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I´d love to see Bush interviewed in BBC´s Hardtalk

Posted by: Jorge on February 8, 2004 11:01 AM

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"Who's that freshman passed out on our lawn?"

"That would be Bush. George W. Bush. Remember that name."

Posted by: zizka / John Emerson on February 8, 2004 11:01 AM

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I think you're right in distinguishing between the questions asked and the follow ups forgotten. Especially, I would argue, on the point concerning the AWOL question. It's quite well known that Bush was actually grounded because he didn't log enough hours; not only that, but Russert let him change the nature of the question. McAuliffe was certainly not denigrating the guard.

One of the first commenters in this post noted that if Russert had hit too hard, viewers might have had some sympathy for Bush. I haven't seen a single positive review of the Bush performance on MTP, so maybe this is somewhat true.

The most telling conclusion I've drawn: Russert made Bush look bad, and he could have made him look much, much worse.

Posted by: Mike on February 8, 2004 11:48 AM

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As the campaign kick-off document with, no doubt, pre-approved questions, I think we can get a fairly good purchase on the coming political strategy, as well as point to a few weaknesses on the President’s part. With nine months to go until the election, White House strategy appears to based on the psychological observation that the public will be bored and bleary-eyed with almost all the issues, except for a few emotional tags:

(1) The Administration is going with the “precautionary principle” to justifiy the invasion of Iraq. (This funny fact is pointed out in a letter in the latest Economist).

(2) To fix it firmly within the wavering voter’s mind, David Kay’s conclusions will be the secondary reinforcement-and-blessing upon the Administration’s decision to invade despite “bad” intelligence, because although Kay didn’t find weapons, he stated “In many ways Iraq was more dangerous than we thought” (whatever that means!). (Although Kay ALSO stated the regime was in “disarray”. File Mr. Kay under: “Testimony for Every White House Occasion”.)

(3) The WMD intelligence issue will be met with a “can’t comment because it’s under investigation by the new commission”. This is a fairly effective political move (as Mark Shields pointed out on Lehrer’s Newshour Friday night). Any continuing complaints by the opposition will become self-characterized, through long repetition, as old news, and whining.

(4) Osama Bin Laden’s whereabouts are known, if he isn’t already in custody or iced in the morgue, and we are going to have a big parade! (Russert reasserted a question raised in Senator Grassley’s ironic comment a few days ago. I’m guessing he wouldn’t have bothered to embarass that dignified senator, so there must be lots of other D.C.-insider murmurings.)

(5) The recovery was halted by corporate scandal and war, but now we’re back on track, and banging on about “personal responsibility” and “entrepreneurship” will go a long way toward shoring up the unemployed in their plight and giving them hope for the future, while framing as “guilty” the no-nothing nay-sayers. (He has a right-eye-wink "tell" when he uses the war to justify something else.)

(6) The budget will now be hashed out by Congress as per usual, in long battles reported unceasingly, so I, George W., am off the freaking hook until after the election!

(7) He implicitly backed away from his insistence on making the tax cuts permanent. --The only real news in this interview?

(8) You can’t change the tone of the environment in Washington because of the environment in Washington. ...Whatever...

On the negative side (for Bush, that is), lots of lies and misrepresentations:

(a) The 9/11 commission has been met with “extraordinary cooperation” by the White House--and not in reality complained of lack of response. (b) David Kay can be trusted to tell the truth--and wasn’t coached by the White House, as was, for example, a previous Treasury Secretary. (c) Congress saw the intelligence on Iraq--although most of them, including some surprisingly high-level ones in the opposing party’s leadership, say they did not. (d) The international community didn’t want to disarm Saddam peacefully; so the U.S. had to go further. (e) No mention that Saddam offered to let the international inspectors back in on the eve of war, to avoid it. (f) Libya apparently “disclosed” its “weapons programs” because Khadafi’s knees were quaking at the fall of the idiot Saddam--not as part of a deal to let U.S. oil companies back into the country. (g) Saddam would have blackmailed us with weapons, because even though he wasn’t a suicidal Islamic fundamentalist, he was a suicidal “madman” who didn’t understand the concept of retaliatory total annihilation.

And so on. The misrepresentation of the internal and international politics of Iraq and the Terror War would take a book.

My favorite Freudian slip was that his National Guard Records stored in Colorado have been previously “scoured”. Whether this means “searched” or “cleaned up”, I guess we’ll soon see. Or “erased”, as you might scour with a deregulated industrial solvent.

Whether it adds up to much politically I don’t know, unless it continues to weaken his credibility. With nine months to argue lots more about everything, the issues sadly may not matter much. The election be mostly upon character--and the Democratic annoyance with the particular issue of Florida 2000.

Posted by: Lee A. on February 8, 2004 11:58 AM

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I think Russert did an okay job. Sure, he didn't ask hard follow ups, but he did elicit statements that may turn out to be lies. For example, Bush asserted more than just that he had been honorably discharged. He said he always been there when he should have been. If this turns out not to be true . . .

The public record of Bush statements is rather thin. This interview adds to it.

Keith, I emailed MTP Friday about role playing the interview. I guess they'll listen to me next time.

Posted by: Matt on February 8, 2004 12:10 PM

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Bush had homecourt advantage. His records have been carefully purged and vetted by .mil, or he wouldn't have authorized their "release". And besides, didn't Bush abolish/redefine the FOIA?

Please, someone tell me how a Kerry Skull&Bones
Heinz-heir-by-proxy is any better than a Bush?
Does Kerry have a plan for disengagement in Iraq?
Is disengagement at this point EVEN POSSIBLE!?

Study the Russian disengagement in Afghanistan,
and the Chechnyan situation today. Spiritually uplifting, how none of these crucial issues are raised with Kerry's interviews. Everyone is so
caught up in the Beat Bush fever, they've forgot
THE WHOLE POINT IS TO SAVE AMERICAN FEDERATION!

?What, elect the guy on looks and riches, then pray he has more than Heinz Homilies to offer?
Come on, all you preppies, get with the diss!

http://www.bls.gov/jlt/jlt02_0503.htm
-as compared to-
http://www.bls.gov/jlt/jlt01_1103.htm

Read it an' weep! Kerry is Hoover's namesake!
HH in 1928: "We in America today are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land." Within months the stock market crashed, and the nation's economy spiraled downward into the Great Depression.

If Kerry wins, his New Deal will Tank. That's why neo-liberals are fighting so hard to put the fix in on the 2004 elections. California, Texas, New York, Florida are all bought and paid for.
Four more years of a Bush Puppet Show is better than playing Ketchup in the land of the Statists.

What/who is Kerry really, but a one-trick pony?
Do you think he has the political savvy to reign the Democrat Machine once he's their front-man?
Won't he be massaged and scripted like Bush is?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Kerry
-as compared to-
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_W._Bush

Kerry's one of the Privileged, not one of U.S.
Prove me wrong with his economics, not slogans.
WHERE WILL ECONOMIC EXPANSION COME FROM TOMORROW?

"Whistle while you work,
Kerry is a jerk,
Bush and Haster' have the power,
Whistle while you work.

Posted by: Ree Edit on February 8, 2004 12:11 PM

____

Bush had homecourt advantage. His records have been carefully purged and vetted by .mil, or he wouldn't have authorized their "release". And besides, didn't Bush abolish/redefine the FOIA?

Please, someone tell me how a Kerry Skull&Bones
Heinz-heir-by-proxy is any better than a Bush?
Does Kerry have a plan for disengagement in Iraq?
Is disengagement at this point EVEN POSSIBLE!?

Study the Russian disengagement in Afghanistan,
and the Chechnyan situation today. Spiritually uplifting, how none of these crucial issues are raised with Kerry's interviews. Everyone is so
caught up in the Beat Bush fever, they've forgot
THE WHOLE POINT IS TO SAVE AMERICAN FEDERATION!

?What, elect the guy on looks and riches, then pray he has more than Heinz Homilies to offer?
Come on, all you preppies, get with the diss!

http://www.bls.gov/jlt/jlt02_0503.htm
-as compared to-
http://www.bls.gov/jlt/jlt01_1103.htm

Read it an' weep! Kerry is Hoover's namesake!
HH in 1928: "We in America today are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land." Within months the stock market crashed, and the nation's economy spiraled downward into the Great Depression.

If Kerry wins, his New Deal will Tank. That's why neo-liberals are fighting so hard to put the fix in on the 2004 elections. California, Texas, New York, Florida are all bought and paid for.
Four more years of a Bush Puppet Show is better than playing Ketchup in the land of the Statists.

What/who is Kerry really, but a one-trick pony?
Do you think he has the political savvy to reign the Democrat Machine once he's their front-man?
Won't he be massaged and scripted like Bush is?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Kerry
-as compared to-
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_W._Bush

Kerry's one of the Privileged, not one of U.S.
Prove me wrong with his economics, not slogans.
WHERE WILL ECONOMIC EXPANSION COME FROM TOMORROW?

"Whistle while you work,
Kerry is a jerk,
Bush and Haster' have the power,
Whistle while you work."

Posted by: Ree Edit on February 8, 2004 12:12 PM

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My favorite "slip" was when he said in response to "capturing bin Laden" he prefers the expression "brought to justice". Well, I guess we know how that's going to turn out.

Come to think of it, I've been wondering how the admin is thinking they can do anything major in Pakistan without destablizing the country. But, if they can pin down bin Laden's location, a well-placed missile might do the trick without too much of a Pakistani backlash.

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on February 8, 2004 12:24 PM

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I also feel like Russert did some damage on the budget/economy issue. For some of the obvious followups, he shouldn't have missed them, but for some of the others, I'm not sure they're so obvious. In preparing for the interview, it's a little hard to expect that Bush would have given answers as absurd as he did. I mean, how to do follow up with a guy who seems content to recite various mistruths to you all day?

Posted by: logicalrealist on February 8, 2004 01:05 PM

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The President doesn't know what assumptions were used in the GAO report, but his budget cuts the deficit in half in five years. The only real problems are entitlement programs, and highway building budgets. He quotes the chart shown in the New York Times in the picture of Josh Bolton on page 10 of section 3.

How could he be expected to know what problems others see in his budget? Who would tell him?

Posted by: masaccio on February 8, 2004 01:19 PM

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I can't decide whether the President's performance was just pathetic or flat out hilarious. If the consequences were not so dire, hilarious would be the choice. The guys at the RNC gotta wonder if this was a good idea in retrospect. Bush had maybe two or three lucid thoughts during the entire hour.

As far as the election goes, and the debate leading up to it, I think this is a good signal for anyone wanting a democrat to win. Just about any of the candidates could ask tougher questions and better follow ups than did Russert. Bush will have a hard time during the debates. Of course, any democrat should be careful what he wishes for. Prez number 44 will have a very difficult time. If a democrat were to win, it would be sooo easy for the Republicans to pin every problem on that poor sucker when the big slide eventually comes. And number 45 will start off with a clean slate.

As an aside, I remember taking a neurobiology class as an undergrad where we studied the brain and how language is processed -- there is a difference between verbal and non-verbal language (parle vs parole if I recall correctly). And there is a condition -- I think it's called dysphasia or something -- where the individual is no longer capable of understanding the verbal part of language. But, some of those same people are acutely aware of non-verbal cues. It's akin to how blind people are very tuned in to using auditory cues, or deaf people have super-charged vision... Anyway, supposedly some mental patients in a hospital somewhere had dysphasia. This was back in the 1980s. The supervisors had left the television on, and President Reagan was speaking. All of a sudden, these patients were making all sorts of noise, laughing and shouting and whatnot. They could not understand a word of what Reagan was saying (they had dysphasia or whatever) but from the non-verbals they could tell that something was amiss. In their estimation, something was wrong. He was lying or something. Just watching President Bush with Tim Russert today, I got the same sense from his non-verbals that there was some degree of disingenuousness. He really looks like even he doesn't believe what he's saying.

Posted by: Just Me on February 8, 2004 01:35 PM

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Ree Edit has analyzed it correctly. The corporations finally have the match up that would do the least harm. When Dean was in they stated that they wanted to make a race of it. When it came down to Kerry and Edwards, Kerry was annointed. I suspect they (status quo) were very afraid of Edwards.

No offense to the East coast, but my God, I am going to have to vote for Bush, at least he is the Devil We Know. There is no choice.

I think it might even be in the corporate interest to elect Kerry as the heat will be off the US for getting the great prize - 15% of the Easy Oil, not that Alaska ANWAR stuff.

Posted by: Greg Hunter on February 8, 2004 01:41 PM

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Re: role-playing. I'm sure this would have helped Russert. Any such preparation is always a good idea. However, what was it about Bush's responses that were surprising? When it came to Iraq, his responses were either full of buzzwords and phrases he's used before, or lies. And not new lies. So what would have been so difficult about challenging them?

Posted by: Mike B. on February 8, 2004 02:10 PM

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Bush again and again offered both these propositions:

1) Even though Saddam didn't turn out to have the weapons we thought he had, the war was absolutely necessary because you just can't trust a madman like that, even if he doesn't have such weapons right now; and
2) We handled this the right way by going to the international community and giving Hussein a chance to avoid war if he would only disarm himself, or demonstrate that he did not have such weapons right now.

Russert never noted the apparent self-contradiction; nor did he ask Bush to account for his bizarre insistence that Hussein did NOT allow UN inspections, and that was the proximate cause of war.

Posted by: Jeffrey Kramer on February 8, 2004 04:53 PM

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There also ought to be a law against question in the form "Why is there a perception that you are....?" If you think the 'perception' is based on fact, ask questions based on those facts. If the perception is not based on fact, all you are doing is reinforcing a false perception by insinuating it in a weasel-like manner.

Posted by: Jeffrey Kramer on February 8, 2004 05:02 PM

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In fairness to Russert, I think he was constrained by a sense of respect for the office, if not the man, a general feeling that has provided a shield for Bush all along.

About the foreign unpopularity, Bush is untroubled because his figures are near Reagan's.
Reagan's were low, of course, because his mindless escalation of the nuclear arms race and belligerence toward the Soviet had scared the world he was about to blow it up.

Posted by: Bob H on February 8, 2004 05:48 PM

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Rusert: Will you testify to the 9-11 Commission.

[Technical] President Bush: Possibly.

Unbelievably obvious follow-up: Great God Almighty, did you just answer, "possibly"?! Under what circumstances would you not testify?! How could there possibly be any reason at all not to testify/! That's it, I can't take this. You're a fraud and an incompetent boob. I'm outta here.

What Russert actually did: Moved right along.

Posted by: some dude on February 8, 2004 10:37 PM

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"About the foreign unpopularity, Bush is untroubled because his figures are near Reagan's."

I really was unhappy with that question. Rove couldn't have scripted it better. Oh, sure, a few of us weirdos are concerned that Europeans dislike Bush; but for the majority of Americans, that's effectively an endorsement. Did Russert really think that was a hostile question?

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on February 9, 2004 12:21 AM

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Tim's lack of follow-up when interviewing Republicans but not Democrats makes him the Bush families' favorite 'mainstream' moderator or interviewer.

The GOP has it down pat, you have to practie for the zingers he will throw at you and he will back them up with a quote or video but if you give your stump speech answer he doesn't really follow through.

#1 on Google for liberal news

Posted by: Easter Lemming Liberal News on February 9, 2004 06:23 AM

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Here's my take on the lack of follow-ups and pinning down W. This is a sitting President in the Oval Office. There are a lot of people that think that a certain degree of deference is due the office of the Presidency, especially in the Oval Office, the symbolic seat of power.

If Tim Russert decided to really drill Bush on this stuff, it would have certainly come across as quite disrespectful to Bush. Now maybe that disrespect is due, maybe not. But I think there is a lot of this country that would find that sort of thing distasteful. And, as one of the previous posters noted, the inferences were pretty plain, even without Russert really driving it home.

So, I'm thinking Russert deliberately reined himself in as a mark of respect for the office, if not the man. I'm not sure whether that is the right thing to do or not, but I'll bet that's the reason.

Posted by: Jeff Ray on February 9, 2004 10:25 AM

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I'm going to have to disagree with your assessment of the interview. While, I do completely agree that Tim Russert let a lot of Bush's nonsensical responses fly, I fail to see how responding in the way you suggested would contribute to an already embarrassing interview.

When it really comes down to it, in true political style, Bush effectively gave us the long-winded version of “I have no idea what I’m being asked.” Yes, this is bush as we’ve come to know and love (REDRUM!) him, but I feel that Bush really was carving his own headstone, and Tim Russert just sat back and let him do it. I would like to think that any half intelligent person could see that Bush was clearly talking out of his ass, even when his responses DID actually somehow apply to the question asked. He was clearly losing his temper, whatever few facts Tim Russert presented was met with “I don’t like polls,” and some of the things bush said struck me as something a dictator might say.

I think Tim Russert was actually pretty hard, because all of his questions were basically in the context of “you F***ed up. What do you have to say about it?” Of course Bush isn’t going to outwardly admit that he f***ed up, because that would be political suicide.

So all in all, I enjoyed watching Bush squirm. I really don’t think it would’ve been smart to press Bush anymore, because they just would’ve received the same answers we’ve already heard, or we’d have one big raging Bush.

…. Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad.

Posted by: Aragorn on February 19, 2004 06:49 AM

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Posted by: Ernest Garcia on June 30, 2004 08:29 PM

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