Obama takes the Russert test: The Swamp
The Swamp
Posted January 22, 2006 12:08 PM
The Swamp

Posted by Jeff Zeleny at 12:05 pm CST

Sen. (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.

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I think the Trib has done a great job keeping a close watch on the Senator. Its interesting to see the Senator break out this year,,,,

'Obama finally declared: "I will not run for president or vice president."'

FYI: That quote is not in the official transcript. It reads:

MR. RUSSERT: There’s been enormous speculation about your political future, Senator. The man you succeeded in the Senate, Peter Fitzgerald, a Republican, said this recently. “I think there’s a very good chance that Senator Obama is on the Democratic ticket in 2008 as the vice presidential nominee.” Do you agree?

SEN. OBAMA: No. I can’t speculate on those kinds of things. What I have said is that, you know, I’m not focused on running for higher office, I’m focused on doing the job that the people of Illinois sent me to do.

MR. RUSSERT: But there seems to be an evolution in your thinking. This is what you told the Chicago Tribune last month: “Have you ruled out running for another office before your term is up?” Obama answered, “It’s not something I anticipate doing.” But when we talked back in November of ‘04 after your election I said, “There’s been enormous speculation about your political future. Will you serve your six-year term as United States senator from Illinois?” Obama, “Absolutely.”

SEN. OBAMA: I will serve out my full six-year term. You know, Tim, if you get asked enough, sooner or later you’re going to get weary and you start looking for new ways of saying things. But my thinking has not changed.

MR. RUSSERT: So you will not run for president or vice-president in 2008?

SEN. OBAMA: I will not.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator, thank you very much for your candor and for joining us and sharing your views.

SEN. OBAMA: Had a great time, Tim. Thank you.

Yeah, the substance is the same, and maybe I am being pedantic, but I think that quotes should be -- you know -- quotes.

The posting characterizes the interview as a "friendly conversation". Why shouldn't it be friendly, seeing as how one Democrat interviewed another Democrat? Although not mentioned in the posting, Tim Russert was a Democrat political operative (aide to a Dem governor of New York) prior to getting his "Meet the Press" gig.

Hmm. 100 senators and Russert chooses Obama to ask about Harry Belafonte. Why? Maybe Russert assumes since their complexions are similar they must have similar views? Russert is a moron.

Once again Tim Russert failed to barely hide his republican ties and leanings by trying to force Sen. Obama to spend his allotted time defending the words of other democrats. Russert spent the whole time trying to get Sen. Obama to disavow and disown the words of prominent politicians and activists. Why didn't Russert choose to use this valuable time asking Sen. Obama what he thought of Bush and his potential future criminal charges, DeLay's indictment, crooked republican lobbyists, criminal renditions, or any other CURRENT events. Instead, Russert, as is his way, chose to force Obama to disagree with others who dislike Bush. Meet the Press is a waste of my time, and if not for that interview I would not have watched it. Russert is no better than the idiots on FOX news channel.

Condi Rice was also once a Democrat. So what? She obviously joined the evil side, and Russert sounds like a paid spokesperson for the GOP. Given the Bu$h administration's propensity for paying off journalists, who knows?

Elliot's right about Russert. He has to be one of the most overrated talk show hosts. He may have been a Dem operative at one point, but he is definitely easier on Republicans.

Obama acquitted himself brilliantly. His hand gestures indicated an ease with the interview. He deflected all of Russert's silly questions.

Note: Obama may not be "running" for vice president, but I do not believe he would reject a nomination if it came his way. Hillary-Barack in '08. Bank it.

I don't think Russert was attempting to pin down Senator Obama. Instead, I feel like he was trying to get somebody with the charisma and straight shooting attitude that Obama has to finally respond to a comment that was obviously a little too strong to just slide off the back of the media. Thank you Tim Russert for once again proving to the world what a capable and gifted senator Barack Obama is, and I hope he continues to be the spokesman of my party for years to come.

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