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.


Taylor concludes:

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.

Here's the transcript.

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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    set up question (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by diogenes on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 09:00:15 PM EST
    All Hillary had to do in response to the archives question was to say that she will instruct Bill to release them and that she would assume that he would do so.  Thus, no one would assume that she had anything to hide.  That isn't so hard for a candidate who wants to build trust and has nothing to hide.

    Did anyone besides Obama flatly state that they (none / 0) (#1)
    by Geekesque on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 03:22:29 PM EST
    support that plan?

    I don't think so (none / 0) (#8)
    by pioneer111 on Thu Nov 01, 2007 at 01:01:32 AM EST
    but no one else was asked.  That wasn't what became the issue.  Clinton would not answer the question and then took both sides of it.  That is what caught Edwards attention.  His point was that how do we know what she really believes when she can't take a position and defend it.  And that also was Obama's point on the archives.  She wants to be transparent but no she won't release the documents.  

    Russert and the lynch mob (none / 0) (#2)
    by talkingchange on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 03:27:02 PM EST
    I was watching MSNBC prior to the debate which was called FIGHT IN PHILLY.  Tells you everything.  I think Obama was supposed to be the hit man but he chickened out and Russert had to whack her himself.  I have never seen anything so obvious.  But its surprising to see how many people think it was necessary.  Have we become such a violent nation that Obama can say about Hillary -- I won't knee cap her and Russert along with his gang can do this to a presidential candidate?  If I wasn't for Hillary before I am now.  Now its a woman thing.  Either we stand up for our sister or we all are going to suffer the same fate.  Also, its not like the guys have run this country so well.  

    It seems to be impossible for the media to allow Americans to pick their own candidates.  They have to destroy everyone who they think might bring us back to normal.

    I agree with you that Dodd's comment on the Drivers Licenses was ridiculous.  It must have been concocted with Tim Russert when he was on Meet the Press this Sunday.  So you can live in this country as an Illegal but its against the law to have a drivers license?  We need to know who's driving and make sure they have insurance if they slam into us.  This was a cheap pandering ploy by someone who otherwise has been a good senator.  It seemed to hit Hillary like nothing else has because I assume he has been a friend.  

    Didn't watch (none / 0) (#3)
    by koshembos on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 06:06:04 PM EST
    Watching the debates is becoming painful. The intellectual level is low and level of repetition high. To see pathetic appearances of Obama and the wasted talent of Edwards (probably the worse campaign team since Gore) is alarming.

    Now to King Russet. It seems to me that Russet may be seeing himself as the best, brightest and leader of the MSM. Since the MSM is now a coalition partner with the Republicans (have been since 1981) and Bush, he took on Hillary. After all, he must serve as an example, role model and pope. Since in addition he is brighter than an average sun who else can take on Bill Clinton with great success.

    just goes to show it's not a debate (none / 0) (#4)
    by dutchfox on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 07:14:27 PM EST
    it's entertainment. Russert was no moderator. And they call this democracy?

    What did they expect (none / 0) (#5)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 07:17:28 PM EST

    What did they expect going wiyh Fox News.

    jeralyn, russert, and matthews, have been (none / 0) (#6)
    by cpinva on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 07:33:19 PM EST
    doing this to the clintons for years. matthews especially seems fixated on the sen., russert just seems fixated on them both. where have you been the past 15 years?

    russert has done this in every democratic debate he's "moderated". go see bob somerby's daily howler blog for an analysis of mr. russert's continuing idiocy.

    with regards to the DL issue, i beg to differ. most states don't require actual proof of insurance, to be issued a DL. the insurance is on the vehicle, not the driver. check it out, don't take my word for it. that being the case, having a DL is in no way a guarantee that the vehicle is insured, since you also don't need to produce proof of that, to get it registered.

    so much for improving safety on the streets.

    In my state.... (none / 0) (#10)
    by kdog on Thu Nov 01, 2007 at 12:23:24 PM EST
    you don't need insurance to get a license, but you do need insurance to register a car.  You need a license to get insurance, but don't need a license to register a car.  Confused?  Me too.

    Licensing won't make the roads safer for this reason...I never drove more carefully and lawfully than when I didn't have a license in good standing.  Nobody drives safer than an unlicensed driver, if only because you can't afford to get pulled over.


    Too true. (none / 0) (#11)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Nov 01, 2007 at 12:51:14 PM EST
    Over the years I have noticed that almost always the most conservative/cautious/safe drivers on the roads where I live are folks driving old Accords and Camrys with peeling purple window tinting and who are obviously Latino immigrants.

    This is no slam against them, we certainly don't need more type-A's like me on the roads. In fact, sometimes seeing them minding their own business and doing their thing on the roads makes me slow my a$$ down..



    the vested interest of the media (none / 0) (#9)
    by Deconstructionist on Thu Nov 01, 2007 at 08:28:17 AM EST
     is not for or against any one candidate or party. It's in creating controversy which engenders interest. A boring campaign is bad for business. A campaign that is static with one person comfortably ahead is boring. The narrative is always that the media annoints a frontrunner based ond money and organization and then after some time it needs to see if that person can be knocked down a few pegs.