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

 

Obama Announces FightTheSmears.com. Forget the Smears, Fight McCain!

Obama launched a new website FightTheSmears.com to combat the well funded Republican misinformation campaign being waged in cyberspace against him. As his campaign sent out in a statement:

It is time to stand up for a new kind of politics and combat the dirty smears and baseless attacks.

As we move toward November, those who seek to use fear and lies to divide us will only become more desperate in their attempts. To combat their efforts, we have released a new website to equip you with the right information to fight smears and rumors about the campaign.

Officially, the site debunks such claims as Michelle Obama used the term Whitey (a term I actually find endearing personally), Obama is a Muslim, and that Obama ever said if you send him $2,000 for a wire transfer fee, he’ll give you 25% of a $40 million sum of money locked up in a Nigerian vault. (Okay, that last one hasn’t been making the rounds yet)

While I applaud Obama for proactively attacking these innuendos, taking the defensive is always a flawed campaign strategy.  In politics, the best defense, is offense.  The only time a campaign should ever defend itself, is while simultaneously taking the offensive.   

Fact is, the truth is practically meaningless in the modern political era – and anyone who is telling you otherwise is lying!   Opinion and innuendo passes for political journalism, not just frequently, not just constantly, but entirely!   Political journalism is delving to lower lows than *gasp* celebrity journalism – and while I like to say I’m happily riding the wave, my ethics as a journalist extend beyond those of mainstream political reporters as I don’t portend to be anything but an entertaining partisan hack!   (Truth in representation is true integrity.)

FightTheSmears.com will prove valuable in the new era of blog oriented rapid response and better arming “viral arm chair, DIY surrogates,” nevertheless, creating a site like this bespeaks a potentially critically flawed campaign strategy from the Obama Camp – that of believing you need to answer the opposition and maintain the high road.   If this is Obama’s gameplan, this is a recipe for disaster.  

In 2004, John Kerry’s camp got so enmeshed in defending Kerry’s impugned  honor as a war veteran, they stopped attacking Bush.    Every press release sent out defending Kerry’s record took the place of one attacking Satan’s George W. Bush’s atrocious record.  The campaign’s fate was sealed when they used the Convention to bolster Kerry’s lagging credentials, rather than hammer Bush… consequently Kerry suffered one of the weakest post Convention bounce in the polls (3-4%) in modern televised election history.  

This brings us to Obama.  Fact is, the media operates without facts!  They report whatever is said and by the time the truth comes out, American’s have lost interested and move onto the next scandal that’s been thrown at them.  

The one concrete truth in politics is that there are no concrete truths!  There is only what you can get American’s to believe – hence the reason American’s still think Gore claimed to invent the internet, still think there was something fishy about John Kerry’s war medals, and why some South Carolinians still think that McCain had a mixed race bastard child (which I’m pretty sure is entirely true).  All of these pseudo-facts were the brainchild of one of the few political minds who has successfully realized politics has moved beyond objective truth – Karl Rove.

The only way to suffer any consequence from outright lying, is if the rival campaign successfully calls you to task – an unbelievably taller task than it might seem – because no one pays attention to defenses when they can instead pay attention to the next attacks!  And even if Campaign A does claim a lie was perpetrated by Campaign B, all that Campaign B must do is say Campaign A is lying, and unless absolute bombshell evidence is released, Campaign A is still worse off because – and here’s the best part – Campaign B merely has to suffer the fact its been accused of lying while Campaign A has to suffer the combined effects of the original lie by Campaign B, plus the effects of subsequently being accused of lying about lying as a counter!  

And the irony, since media increasingly refuses to take sides on “He Said, She Said” issues in politics, unless there is overwhelming evidence, the lying campaign almost always makes out better.  The media will only take a side in light of overwhelming evidence, and in the time it takes to accrue overwhelming evidence on concrete issues or vague innuendos, the public has made up its mind for one side and bored of the original argument.  

The strategy is beautiful in both its simplicity and its efficacy.  If you attack fast enough and hard enough, you never have to answer for the veracity of any of it!  

The moral of the story, Obama should NEVER go on the defensive.  No campaign should ever go on the defensive.  The only defense is an attack!   If Obama wanted to defend himself on the charge that Michelle Obama used the term “Whitey,” he should have used a 501c3 hit squad to pay a Hispanic woman to come out claiming that Cindy McCain used a racial epitaph against her.  (watch his pole numbers in Florida after that one!)  Sure, it wouldn’t be a defense per say, but it would effectively diminish the “whitey” debate and do more damage to the McCain cause.  

Ironically, it would cost $10,000 to arrange a stunt like this, but cost McCain $10M in campaign damage.  (Yes, I will take black ops donations)  

In closing, this is the new age of politics.  One in which campaigns are viewed as what they are, wars of attrition in which truth is increasingly rendered more irrelevant by the lack of a media with any back bone.  Unless media exalts the ideals of great journalists like Walter Cronkite by eschewing unprincipled reporting and passing of opinion off as fact – we are doomed to succumb to the smears.  
The good old days of journalism

 

McCain Medical Records To Be Released Friday, Will He Make It Till Then?

Medical Records on John McCain released as soon as they excise that \

Comical headline in the International Herald Tribune today. This is what humorists call verbal irony… saying one thing and meaning something other…

Here’s the first two Paragraphs…

McCain set to release health data on Friday

Senator John McCain is set to release 400 pages of medical records, including documents related to his melanoma surgery in August 2000, to a tightly controlled group of reporters on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend.

McCain said late last week that he had nothing to hide. Campaign officials have nonetheless said that even if nothing in the records suggests a problem with his health, a rush of news media reports focusing on the cancer surgery was not politically helpful and that they wanted to play down the information as much as possible — something that the timing of the release would seem to accomplish.

Link available here.

Tight group of reporters? Friday before Memorial Day weekend? “Want to play down the information as much as possible???!” What part of “nothing to hide” is McCain talking about?!

Might I add that McCain has delayed the release of his medical records with one excuse or another for over a year!

If this is how he conducts the obligatory “Presidential Candidate releases his medical records,” how is he going to conduct his Presidency? This behavior is positively Karl Rovian – and more proof that straight talk is a myth, McCain’s all wonktalk.

That’s what McCain and his cronies are preying upon – cloning a page out of the Bush playbook, McCain already is displaying the typical underhanded Republican pattern of exploiting Americans disinterest.

Meanwhile, I know what I’m doing Memorial Weekend – going to poolside BBQ’s with hot models! blogging to hold McCain accountable!

But wanna know the last thing a reporter wants to be doing over memorial day weekend? Siphoning through 400 pages of doctor notes about McCain’s prostate exams and the color of his phlegm!

And you know what the average citizen American plans to be doing with their Memorial Day weekend? Ranking somewhere below cleaning the gutters and watching “Speed Racer” in the theaters is reading / watching the news.

Face it… when it comes to health, McCain’s a bloody mess!

With infirmities that have put him in a steady state of declining health for over a quarter of a century, its a wonder the man can even walk! Clearly at 72 he body is in serious decline – he’s had four different melanomas, is in need of joint replacement, and has been on military disability for longer than I’ve been alive – to say nothing of his deteriorating mind. (a complete post on McCain’s health is forthcoming)

The man is desperate to become President and will ignore his health and hiding whatever he must from the American people to get there.

McCain has had melanoma as many times as there are years in a Presidential term

Keeping You Ahead of the Curve: Is Howard Dean Reading MY Blog?

Howard Dean read Obama\'s Hatchet Man for His Talking Points

As my many loyal readers will recall, on Monday I wrote the blog entitled McCain: Dirty Money Lobbyist Whore Videos where I joked about LobbyistGate and McCain saying…

“But all this gets even more confusing when you realize that it was campaign manager Rick Davis, stake holder in lobbying firm Davis Manafort, whom McCain has cleaning his house of lobbyists! Rick took the bold stance of either resigning or severing ties with lobbying firms. Wow, bold move… but ultimately tantamount to having a wolf guarding the hen house.”

Lo and behold, I get a blast email from Howard Dean today that starts out:

“I’ve got a joke for you.

Last week, John McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, sent a memo to the McCain campaign staff about a brand new “conflicts policy”

Here’s the punch line: Rick Davis, author of the memo and the person in charge of finding these “conflicts” within the campaign, founded his own lobbying firm, and, according to the Politico, “has made at least $2.8 million lobbying Congress since 1998.”

John McCain’s commitment to keeping Washington lobbyists out of his campaign is a joke — but it’s not funny. It’s shocking.”

Don’t you forget, you heard it here first folks! But Howard Dean knows he has free license to borrow from me whenever he wants. As a former moonlighter at the DNC, I’ll supply Howard with his talking points. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to fight the scourge that is the Republicans. (hey, it beats fighting in Iraq)

But Howard… While your letter borrowed from what I wrote about days before, my Blog was far more entertaining!!

And one more thing Obama Supporters, Politicos, Patriots, …

Now that the DNC has heard the call of blogs like mine, they’ve taken the bold step of creating a petition you can fill out calling for McCain to fire Rick Davis and Charlie Black. Just follow this link.

I’m sure McCain will be sure to add this petition to his trash can suggestion box. But hey why not support Dean’s petition, every little bit counts right?

And with Rick Davis and Charlie Black slowly being marginalized into oblivion, you know who will play an even busier roll in the campaign??? That’s right, Uncle Karl himself! (See my last blog: <a href=”https://obamashatchetman.wordpress.com/2008/05/21/scary-thought-karl-rove-will-be-mccains-brain-after-it-withers-from-his-alzheimers/”>Scary Thought: Karl Rove Will Be McCain’s Brain After It Withers From His Alzheimer’s)

As they say, the devil you know is sometimes better than the devil you don’t know in Politics. Nevertheless, scandal should never be left alone! I say off with Rick Davis and Charlie Black’s heads!!!

Off with Rick Davis and Charlie Black\'s Heads!

Scary Thought: Karl Rove Will Be McCain’s Brain After It Withers From His Alzheimer’s

One scary thought that crossed my mind. Recently Karl Rove has become a greater and greater force in the McCain campaign…

If he could wield so much power over a simple minded President like Satan George W. Bush, think what he can do with a President suffering from Alzheimer’s!

You saw the Documentary Bush’s Brain, well think how quickly Rove can become McCain’s Brain!!!!

America, run from McCain now! His degenerative dementia will be so far along by the time he assumes office in January 2009 that a vote for McCain is just a vote for the same crooked policy advisers and Neo-con staffers of W!

Don’t say I didn’t warn you, Uncle Karl is ready to pounce. Rove will be McCain’s brain as soon as Alzheimer’s turns what’s left of it to mush!!!

Karl Rove will be John McCain\'s Brain once it wastes away from Alzheimer\'s

Kentucky Results Indicate McCain’s Weak Support / Problems With Conservatives

McCain Scores a Pathetic 72% of the Vote In Kentucky

REPUBLICAN PRIMARY ELECTION RESULTS FOR KENTUCKY

McCain 72%

Huckabee 8%

Paul 7%

Uncommitted 5%

Mitt Romney 5%

Rudy Giuliani 2%

KENTUCKY ANALYSIS OF THE REPUBLICAN PRIMARY

WTF! You’re the party’s presumptive nominee and you don’t even pull 3/4ths of the vote. The other guys have dropped out (except for Paul) and you’re giving up almost 10% of the vote to Huckabee? Even more sad, 5% chose uncommitted rather than vote for McCain.

I know the news media is getting its panties in a twirl covering the Democratic election, which in my book was over on super Tuesday, but big media is doing the American people a gross disservice by giving McCain a free pass on these shocking numbers. (Or should I say Hillary is doing the entire party a disservice by staying in so that the media’s harsh focus won’t reveal McCain’s glaring blemishes)

Much has been made about Obama losing to Clinton in Kentucky, but the Republican numbers tell me that if the Kentucky Primary was held before New Hampshire, McCain could easily have been toast. But then we also could ask “if pigs flew would pork taste like chicken.”

What this does tell me is that conservatives still revile McCain. From what I’ve observed, his “base” has consisted of a loose conflagration of voters that are not well educated on his record.

Fact is when die-hard conservatives learn McCain’s record on issues that matter to them: abortion, immigration, gun control, gay marriage – they grow weary at best, bolt at worst. One thing is certain, they hardly rally to his defense. (see my previous entry McCain: The Conservatives Don’t Even Trust Him.) He’s needed every ounce of Rovian wisdom to try to bring conservatives into the fold for him – and reports indicate Karl is working hard for him on the message building front (otherwise known as Operations: John Knows Jack About Conservatives)

Unfortunately for McCain, he gained his ill deserved “maverick” reputation by staking positions just to the left of the major conservative wedge issues, leaving him out in the cold. For example, on abortion, he is decidedly anti-Choice, but simultaneously takes the moderate position of vocally opposing the Republican party platform’s call for no-exceptions. On gun control, he’s for moderate restrictions. In other words, he’s taken neither here nor there positions on many of the positions that really count to conservatives, but are incidental to “swing voters.” That’s why as a “presumptive Republican nominee,” he gave up 28% of the vote to now phantom opponents (and Ron Paul)!

Meanwhile, on the issues that matter to the average middle of the road voter – the economy, defense, Iraq, Social Security, health care, education etc. – McCain is decidedly conservative, with opinions perfectly in step with Satan George W. Bush. As voters recognize that McCain is in ideology, just another four year term for W, they’re bolting.

Hence the reason McCain needs to find palatable issues that he can take left leaning positions on (even if in lip service only) . The most easy to swallow for the conservatives – Environmentalism.

Ironically, while McCain’s environmental policy was seen as a departure from the conservative establishment, it is arguably merely the logical extension of the basic concessions Bush has been forced to offer up in light of rising energy costs and a preponderance of evidence that Global Warming. (If you’ll recall, in April 2008, the Bush administration finally conceded that climate change was occurring.)

Had candidate McCain been candidate Bush, we likely would have seen a nearly identical proposal on climate change, the environment, and energy. (I swear a post going into detail on McCain’s energy and environmental plans is forthcoming)

At the end of the day, as Kentucky indicates, McCain is fighting a two front war: on the one had maintaining his credentials as a conservative and invigorating the party’s base, and on the other appealing to the moderately inclined “swing voter.”

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