Bush v Russert (Updated)

An awful lot of otherwise intelligent people in the blogosphere seem to have completely missed the point of the exchanges on Sunday. Kevin Drum says:

That’s what Russert missed. He didn’t need to ambush him with silly questions about whether he could name the prime minister of India, but he should have asked a few question that drilled more deeply into Bush’s policy beliefs and his personal vision, questions that forced him away from the comfortable climes of the briefing book. It was a missed opportunity.

Josh Marshall says:

Superficially, I think Bush came off okay, largely because Russert failed to press the president sufficiently on some deceptive responses.

And David Neiwert says:

I’m not sure why Tim Russert, host of NBC’s Meet the Press, has the reputation for being the bulldog interviewer that he has.Well, I know why: He’s very much the bulldog when it comes to Democrats and liberals.

With conservatives, well, he has a long track record of letting them off the hook. I know this from personal experience: One of my jobs at MSNBC (1998-2000) involved taping, transcribing and excerpting Meet the Press every Sunday.

And this Sunday’s interview with George W. Bush was perfectly consistent with this trend.

Maybe, but I think they’re missing the point if they don’t understand that Russert only got the interview by agreeing to submit his questions in advance and not depart from the script. That’s the way Rove has this WH working. Even Presidential Press Conferences are scripted for chrissake, you think a major tv interview wasn’t?

I’ll give Russert points, in fact, because I’m willing to bet that both he and the network had to fight to get the AWOL question approved. Neiwert is right that Russert is a lot easier on conservatives than liberals as a general rule, and that this wasn’t much of an exception. But I think it was marginally less friendly than we should have expected it to be–I figured Russert would throw nothing but nerf balls, set-ups for Junior to bat out of the park without breaking a sweat. Instead, there were a few legitimate questions, and even though there were zero legitimate answers, I think we have to give Russert some–I said some–credit for managing to get Rove’s approval to ask a couple of questions outside the usual territory of Rove’s HappyTalk strategy.

What really disturbs me is that, despite the excellent reports that occasionally surface detailing Rove’s absolute control of every Bush media appearance, including a whole book on the subject aptly named Bush’s Brain, a lot of folk who ought to know better seem to be taking that interview at face-value. They’re still talking as if a Bush appearance could be genuine in some way instead of the tightly monitored, carefully crafted fictional playlets they always are.

BTW, don’t expect another such event. Even conservatives were complaining that Bush looked stoned and sounded confused and incoherent. Rove isn’t likely to approve another such disaster.

Update 4/10/07:  And he didn’t. Bush hasn’t done a live interview since.

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