Two things about being Meet the Press’ Tim Russert. One, you don’t have to report the news if you’re Tim Russert, you can make it up as you go along, sort of like former CBS reporter Dan Rather. And the other thing is, you don’t have to connect the dots in a story you simply make more and more dots and when there are more dots than anyone can count you just pretend that the dots are connected.
That’s the McCarthyism and Yellow Journalism that Mr. Russert performed on Sen. Barack Obama with two questions that were of the, “Do you still beat your wife,” variety.
Russert with his penchant for the gotta sensational interview went overboard at the Democrat’s debate held in Ohio two days ago with his McCarthyite and Yellow Journalistic type tactics.
With two craftily configured questions Mr. Russert attempted to impugn the character of Sen. Obama by intimating that Sen. Obama was a man who would go back on his word and secondly Mr. Russert implied by association that Sen. Obama was a racist Jew hater.
A liar and a Jew hater both sensational and damning charges that could end a campaign or a political career like the blacklist of the McCarthy era that ended many a Hollywood entertainer’s career. A liar and a Jew hater, both allegations were the thrust of Russert’s two pronged assault on decent journalism and Sen. Barack Obama a decent man.
Both veiled charges contrived in the mind of Russert and devoid of the facts and void of true journalist integrity.
Both questions were attempts to leave a negative impression in the minds of voters about the Illinois Senator and presidential hopeful.
And at least one question Russert already knew the answer to; the other question one would think he should have known the answer.
First Russert posed this question;
Senator Obama, let me ask you about motivating, inspiring, keeping your word.
Nothing more important.
Last year you said if you were the nominee you would opt for public financing in the general election of the campaign; try to get some of the money out. You checked "Yes" on a questionnaire. And now Senator McCain has said, calling your bluff, let's do it.
You seem to be waffling, saying, well, if we can work on an arrangement here.
Why won't you keep your word in writing that you made to abide by public financing of the fall election?
On a questionnaire, The Midwest Democracy Network Presidential Candidate Questionnaire (see here) Sen. Obama checked “YES” to this question; “Question I-B: If you are nominated for President in 2008 and your major opponents agree to forgo private funding in the general election campaign, will you participate in the presidential public financing system?” and Sen. Obama wrote this response;
In February 2007, I proposed a novel way to preserve the strength of the public financing system in the 2008 election. My plan requires both major party candidates to agree on a fundraising truce, return excess money from donors, and stay within the public financing system for the general election.
My proposal followed announcements by some presidential candidates that they would forgo public financing so they could raise unlimited funds in the general election.
The Federal Election Commission ruled the proposal legal, and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has already pledged to accept this fundraising pledge. If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.
Sen. Obama answered Mr. Russert;
Tim, I am not yet the nominee. Now, what I've said is, is that when I am the nominee, if I am the nominee -- because we've still got a bunch of contests left and Senator Clinton's a pretty tough opponent. If I am the nominee, then I will sit down with John McCain and make sure that we have a system that is fair for both sides
Russert responded by; “So you may opt out of public financing. You may break your word.” Russert still ever attempting to create the illusion that there was something wrong.
SEN. OBAMA again responded,
“What I -- what I have said is, at the point where I'm the nominee, at the point where it's appropriate, I will sit down with John McCain and make sure that we have a system that works for everybody.”
Shortly after in a post debate interview Mr. Russert acknowledged that he knew what Sen. Obama had written on the questionnaire (Russert had a copy of it) that if he (Obama) were the nominee he would sit down and negotiate with the Republican nominee and he (Russert) thought that Sen. Obama would simply have referred to the questionnaire.
Therefore Mr. Russert’s whole line of questioning purposely misrepresenting Sen. Obama’s stated position and attempted to leave the impression in the voters’ minds that there was something going on that wasn’t.
Sen. Obama exact written words were, “If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.” And that is what Sen. Obama repeatedly stated to Mr. Russert yet Russert attempted to sensationalize a John McCain accusation that Sen. Obama was going back on this word, but how could Sen. Obama be going back on his word, he’s not the Democrat nominee yet!
Sen. Obama’s point was that he can’t look pass Hillary Clinton. Sen. Obama is still locked in a battle with Sen. Clinton. Unlike John McCain, Sen. Obama’s competition didn’t just drop out of the race like Mitt Romney. So it would be presumptuous of Sen. Obama, at best, to engage Sen. McCain about general election financing as if he were the nominee now.
This whole line of Tim Russert questioning was ill contrived Yellow journalism.
Secondly Russert played the McCarthyite racism by association anti-Semitism card. Russert asked:
Senator Obama, one of the things in a campaign is that you have to react to unexpected developments.
On Sunday, the headline in your hometown paper, Chicago Tribune: "Louis Farrakhan Backs Obama for President at Nation of Islam Convention in Chicago." Do you accept the support of Louis Farrakhan?
What support? Russert is quoting a headline in a paper that claimed something. Russert did not offer one direct quote that Louis Farrakhan said, “I support Barack Obama.” Yet based on this innuendo Russert was able along with Sen. Clinton’s aid to exact a rejection and denunciation of Louis Farrakhan and Sen. Obama's Pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright from Sen. Obama.
Obama must feel like Peter who rejected and denounced Jesus Christ three times to people who want Jesus dead.
But notice how Russert did it, he raised the specter of Louis Farrakhan alleged anti-Semitism over the head of Sen. Obama by connecting Farrakhan’s alleged “backing” for Obama with Farrakhan’s past statements about Jews that have nothing to do with Obama running for President.
Then Russert introduced Obama’s pastors’ activities with Farrakhan as if either had anything to do with Obama. A whole lot of dots but none of them connected to Senator Obama.
The title of one of your books, "Audacity of Hope," you acknowledge you got from a sermon from Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the head of the Trinity United Church. He said that Louis Farrakhan "epitomizes greatness."
He said that he went to Libya in 1984 with Louis Farrakhan to visit with Moammar Gadhafi and that, when your political opponents found out about that, quote, "your Jewish support would dry up quicker than a snowball in Hell."
What do you do to assure Jewish-Americans that, whether it's Farrakhan's support or the activities of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, your pastor, you are consistent with issues regarding Israel and not in any way suggesting that Farrakhan epitomizes greatness?
This is a stunting example of McCarthyism. An indirect accusation that because Farrakhan is considered an anti-Semite by some people and Rev. Wright’s association with Farrakhan may be construed as anti-Semitic therefore Sen. Obama’s association with Rev. Wright and reported “backing” from Farrakhan by extension makes Sen. Obama guilty by association.
That type of thinking should send chills up the spines of Americans. Does anyone think about what a fascistly repressed country this would be if we demanded that everyone who got a positive remark by someone our opponents dislike, one would have to immediately disavow the person making that remark? For example, should Karl Rove have to reject and denounce Bill Clinton who had some positive words about him on Fox News?
But [Karl] Rove is good. And I honor him. I mean, I will say that. I've always been amused about how good he is, in a way.-- Bill Clinton, Fox News with Chris Wallace 9/24/2006
Tim Russert’s journalism is subtly accusatory and passively aggressively damning in general but what he demonstrated in the Democrat’s debates was more stridently McCarthyite and Yellow and wrong!