Tim Russert: Moderator or Debater?
Taylor Marsh has a great post about last night's Democratic debate and the behavior of NBC co-moderator Tim Russert.
Tim Russert asked 26 questions; 14 were to Clinton, with 5 directly targeting her personally....In contrast, Barack Obama got asked what he would do about air travel; whether there was life beyond earth; and the question on which all Americans' safety depends, What are you going to dress as on Halloween?
....But Russert's softballs to Obama when compared to Clinton were nakedly obvious to anyone paying attention.....Tim Russert who had no business taking sides. But he did anyway.
....Russert played a card [on the archives question] that was not only disingenuous and meant to bring in Bill Clinton into a debate where Hillary Clinton is running for president, but did so using innuendos and outright falsehoods, according to any objective player.
I agree with what she says about Russert playing debater against Hillary, joining the attack, rather than sticking to moderating.
Tim Russert used his position as moderator to single out Clinton in a fashion that was inappropriate, highly targeted, unfair, especially when you consider the numbers of questions to Clinton and their negative tone, opposed to Obama's cutesy questions.
Russert didn't moderate the debate. He became part of the proceedings, coloring the questioning and supporting the attack dog theme, the brawl theme that the hack pack press wanted. Because if Clinton's Democratic opponents weren't prepared to go at Clinton, it is clear that Tim Russert had deemed himself the man for the job. He'd give his buddies in the media the headlines they wanted today. It was a disgraceful performance of outright grandstanding in order to fit the debate to the storyline put forth in the press all day yesterday.
While I agree with Taylor about what Russert did, I don't see it as female bias on Russert's part. It seemed more like either a front-runner or a personal bias. Or just ego, like Chris Matthews, trying to grab the line that would be most talked about the next day.
There's one other thing to address in Taylor's post. I'm actually surprised that she doesn't think the undocumented should get driver's licenses. I'm appalled that Sen. Dodd attacked Spitzer's plan and disappointed that John Edwards didn't defend it. Every Democrat on that stage should have stood behind Spitzer's original plan (not the watered downed compomise the Bush Administration later shoved down his throat.)
It has nothing to do with whether driving is a right or a privilege. It has to do with making our roads safer, knowing who's on them and making sure all drivers are insured. In 2004, there were 14 states that allowed licenses for the undocumented. It makes sense for security and for public safety.
These laws were enacted for public safety reasons -- to ensure that drivers meet some standard to drive and to lower insurance premiums by decreasing the pool of unlicensed and uninsured drivers. In most cases, these laws were passed with the strong support of state law enforcement officials who recognized the advantages of being able to identify drivers and discourage unlicensed drivers from fleeing from minor traffic infractions or accidents because they were fearful of being caught without a license.
The analogous arguments hold for national security -- the more we can encourage otherwise law abiding people within our borders to participate in the system the easier it will be to identify those that pose a true threat.
I also agree with Big Tent Democrat -- Hillary didn't flip-flop, she made perfect sense and had the right answer.
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