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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Earth to Daschle: Shut the Hell Up And Get on Point!

On his Sunday appearance on MSNBC, Tom Daschle claims that John McCain came close to becoming and independent and caucusing with the Democrats.

As NewsMax.com reports:

During Daschle’s appearance Sunday on MSNBC’s “Meet the Press,” host Tim Russert noted that Daschle said in February, “It’s true that we were once close to bringing John McCain into the Democratic caucus. There are many who can verify that.” Russert asked, “John McCain almost became a Democrat?”

Daschle answered: “Never a Democrat, but an independent. He was so angry at the way he was treated and the problems he had with the Bush administration in 2001, Tim, that he came to us and said, ‘Look, I’m seriously considering becoming an independent and caucusing with you. Let’s talk about it.’ And we did.”

“Aligning himself with the Democrats in the Senate?” Russert asked.

“Exactly,” Daschle replied.

First, as I’ve said time and time again, with Dems like these, who needs enemies! For the last month at least, the Obama campaign has made headway with their “McBush” message and painting McCain as four more years of the same, yet now Daschle is practically working as Republican party surrogate to bring up a time that distances McCain from Bush.

What this incident really should indicate is that McCain is an uncompromising hot head who almost abandoned his party in 2001 partly because of his personal vendetta against Bush based on the vicious Karl Rove attacks he suffered in the 2000 South Carolina Primary.

But even after McCain went diva pre-September 11, 2001, he was still lock-step with the Republican Party on most issues and held a core Republican ideology, the most glaring difference being his final vote opposing Bush’s tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. The irony now is that in a flip flog of insane proportions, McCain advocates extending those same tax cuts!

Beyond that, McCain’s differences in record with Bush are largely superficial, save for perhaps his morally based opposition to the Bush administration’s egregiously misguided support of torture in the interest of national security. But while even I must give “props” to McCain taking the correct stand on this issue, what can you really expect?

Nevertheless, Daschle did come back to Earth by giving the truth about McCain subsequently in the interview:

Russert asked Daschle, who is an adviser to the Barack Obama campaign, “Then how can you run against [McCain] as a Bush third term?”

Daschle responded: “Because in the course of that period from 2001 to 2008 . . . he’s become a very ideologic advocate for the Bush policies on Iraq, on the economy, on tax policy, on domestic policy. Across the board he is espousing the Bush policies. He’s changed a lot since 2001.”

“Why?” Russert queried.

“Well, I think because he felt he needed to do that to win the nomination,” was Daschle’s response.

Clearly, on the issues that matter, McCain and Bush are ideological brethren, if not twins conjoined at the brain, with McCain possibly (as if this was possible) being to the right of Bush on national security and the economy – core issues determining who will win the election.

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