Posted by Jeff Zeleny at 12:05 pm CST
Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) took the Tim Russert test today.
The host of NBC's "Meet the Press" invited Obama to appear on the most prominent platform of the Sunday morning talk-show parade. Even though Russert strongly prefers his interview subjects to sit next to him in the studio--often chartering planes to ferry a guest to Washington--he allowed Obama to appear by satellite from Chicago.
In exchange for that small accommodation, NBC touted the interview as an EXCLUSIVE on the show and on its web site.
The state of affairs in Iraq and proposals for ethics reform in Washington dominated the friendly conversation.
But Obama also was asked to respond to biting criticisms of the Bush administration, particularly those delivered in recent days by Harry Belafonte and Sen. Hillary Rodam Clinton (D-N.Y.)
On Saturday, Belafonte compared the Homeland Security Department to the Gestapo. Not long ago the former civil rights leader and entertainer, who is supportive of Obama, said President Bush was the world's biggest terrorist.
"I never use Nazi analogies, because I think those were unique," Obama said, responding to Belafonte comment No. 1. "I think we have to be careful using historical analogies like this."
"That's not language that I would use," Obama said, responding to Belafonte comment No. 2.
And the Clinton remark that Bush will go down as one of the worst presidents in history?
"That's a tough standard to meet. We've had some pretty bad ones," Obama said. "I don't prognosticate where George Bush will be placed in history."
Finally, Russert tried to pin down Obama on his political future.
First, Russert referred to a quote from Obama's predecessor, former Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.), who said he believes Obama will be on the 2008 presidential ticket in some fashion.
"I can't speculate on those kinds of things," Obama said. "I'm not focused on running for higher office."
Then, Russert tried to reconcile a curious comment Obama made to the Tribune late last year, where he left open the window of possibility by saying: "It's not something I anticipate doing."
"I will serve out my full six-year term," Obama said, trying to explain his varying responses. "If you get asked enough, sooner or later you get weary."
So Russert tried one more time.
Obama finally declared: "I will not run for president or vice president."
And that was the conclusion of this round of the Russert test.