RIP Tim Russert: A great reporter passes, Republicans benefit

Sad day in news with the passing of Tim Russert.  He was one of the “good ones”.  But I did always respected Tim for taking politicians to task on “Meet The Press.”  In an era where TV news host are either rabid partisan hacks (O’Reilly) or complete powder puffs (Charlie Gibson, Brian Williams, Katie Couric, Anderson Cooper, et al.), Russert would at least attempt to keep real journalism alive by staying objective but still providing some pushback!  Many a time, his interviews would make news in and of themselves because Tim would actually do the research to know when to call out a politician’s BS!  

RIP Tim Russert

This weekend should be full of tributes to this great journalist, and rightly so.  

Nevertheless, there are two areas where the media so far is glossing over the larger implications of Russert’s death:    

1)  Russert was a key witness in the CIA Leak Scandal

First things first, Karl Rove and Dick Cheney may secretly be popping corks and toasting Russert’s death.  With Russert’s passing, goes a key witness in the Valerie Plame, CIA leak investigation.   

Tim Russert got grilled by the Libby Team as their Hail Mary strategy

Right as Scott McClellan goes turncoat and agrees to meet before the House Judiciary on Plame, this Karl Rove lucky break tragic event occurs.  If you don’t recall, Libby claimed Russert informed him of Valerie Plame’s identity, a claim Russert flately denied, thereby providing the bombshell testimony that landed Libby in the clink (sorta, except for that partial pardon from a certain Presidential friend that allowed him to escape Club Fed.)   Had Russert testified even that he was unsure, Libby wouldn’t need the partial pardon nor the full pardon that’s coming his way.  

The exact effect Russert’s passing will now have on McClellan’s reprise of the Plame Affairs is still TBD.  Hopefully, the testimony Russert already provided stands as sufficient record.  Nevertheless, though Libby dropped his appeal based on his partial pardon, I’m no legal scholar, but I believe he has the right to re-exercise that appeal. (Note:  This needs to be verified)

Consequently, a Libby appeal hedged on Russert’s inability to stand witness provides the Plame Scandal Participants an interesting out.  Not only will it buy time, but now sans Russert, an appeal has a slightly better chance of letting Libby wriggle free.

But beyond that, it will be interesting to see if new McClellan / Plame allegations are deflected using Russert – or possibly worse, new allegations involve Russert who now, for obvious reasons, provide no further clarification.  Convicted criminal Scooter Libby

More than likely, Russert’s unequivocal denials of knowing anything about Plame’s CIA involvement prior to Robert Novak’s column precludes any “legal defense grave robbing,” and prevent a man who can’t defend himself from becoming Libby, Rove, and Cheney’s ultimate scapegoat.  

2)  Russert’s death significantly alters the Presidential debate picture.  

Russert was a likely shoe-in as a Presidential debate moderator.

While both campaigns are publicly offering up prodigious schedules of debates, they wildly vary in preference for formats, which means once they finish their negotiating, it should leave the public with a whittled down schedule of 3-5 Presidential debates and another 2-4 VP debates)   

Fact is, with Russert’s passing, there are few high profile, experienced, objective yet pointed moderators left.  With half of TV news now consisting of radical partisan hacks, and seemingly the other half powder puffs without credentials to take a Presidential candidate to task, its hard to imagine that Russert would have been passed over had the candidates agreed on 4-5 debates – though likely he would have been teamed with perhaps Brian Williams or other panelists.  

Russert would definitely not have been the first choice of the McCain campaign, particularly because Russert is known for pointing out inconsistencies – of which McCain suffers from plenty – and Russert asks pointed questions – something that the Alzheimer’s suffering septuagenarian routinely falters on. 

Now, what would have been a likely Russert moderated debate (at least in the form of Russert plus panelists) will potentially fall into the lap of a less established moderator, in the vein of Anderson Cooper,  who enjoys less license to dispense with the kid gloves.  (Cooper should also be on the McCain’s nix list to avoid him looking ancient contrasted against both Cooper and Obama).  

Of the remaining moderators, you have:

Lehrer who is legacy to get at least one moderating assignment

Gibson, who despite embarrassing himself in the Gibson / Stephanopoulos ABC Democratic Debate by failing to ask a single substantive question, may still get the call by seeming innocuous yet palatably seasoned (though I’d be shocked if he was high on Obama’s list)  

Next to go Bob Schieffer may be aging out of the running.  (and really, you have to ask yourself, what the line in Vegas would have been for Schieffer to outlive Russert?!?  Its a mad world!)

Conceivably Wolf Blitzer or Larry King could get the nod, but I don’t think either are particularly favorites -and in perhaps my least intellectual, but most truthful analysis – I think its because Wolf on some subliminal level looks like a Wolfman.  Honestly, every time I look at him, I question how this strange hairy man got where he is.  But more substantively, Wolf parades as a anchor of gravitas, but loses his credibility every time he delivers his patented sensationalized teasers that never live up to their billing.  Between his Wolfman sort of appearance and sensational lead in’s that never live up to their billing, Wolf in my mind is the sideshow act of anchors.  But I digress… 

Given the Hillary factor, a woman may swoop in to get the debate moderating spot, but I hope its Barbara Walter and not Katie Couric.  

Rounding out the potentials: all the 60 Minutes dinosaurs, semi-retired Tom Brokaw (who is a likely choice if he wants it), Sam Donaldson (blah), Matt Lauer, Ted Koppel (yawn), and strong candidate Brian Williams.    

Consequently, a betting man would have put money on a Russert moderated debate … and to take it a step further and going out on a major hypothetical prognostication limb, a Russert moderated debate would have likely benefited Obama to the tune of an additional 1-2% bump as Obama did exceedingly well in the 2008 Democratic Russert debate and Russert’s questioning style and choice of questions highly favors Obama’s off the cuff ease.  

Perhaps the greatest testament to magnitude of Tim Russert’s death is saying it won’t just affect the way the news is covered, it will affect the way the news plays out.   

Russert did a masterful job at the Democratic Debate, largely because he seemed to help Obama

 

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1 Comment

  1. Russert’s passing will also effect the election. You can watch Tim Russert interview John McCain on YouTube and you’ll see Russert really go after the answers!

    As for the debate, they need to have at least two CNN YouTube debates (with citizen video questions submitted). Even though we no longer have a fine journalist to moderate, all is not lost. See my website for how we can take back the media from Bill O’Reilly and George W. Bush.


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