Is Russert a Tough Questioner?

You hear this a lot from his supporters, but I agree with Matthew Yglesias:

The crux of the matter is this reputation for being a “tough questioner” and the notion that Russert’s brand of toughness is worthy of emulation. And it’s true that Russert is a tough questioner. Watch any Russert-moderated debate or a typical candidate appearance on Meet The Press and you’ll see that he goes way out of the way to put the politician in a tough corner – he’ll ask about some unimportant issue that’s politically awkward, he’ll drag up a quote from five years ago to try to trip you up, he’ll ask about stuff your husband said, he’ll harp on whatever recent story has most damaged your candidacy – he’s tough. But while I wouldn’t want to say that “tough questioning” is a bad thing, making toughness the goal is perverse. The goal should be to inform the audience … Russert doesn’t care – at all – about whether or not his actions inform the American electorate. Rather, he cares about creating a “news-making” event — likely something embarrassing for the politician — and about burnishing his reputation for toughness. He attracts a circle of admirers who share his perverse and unethical lack of concern for whether or not his work helps produce an informed public, gobs of less-prominent television journalists seek to emulate his lack of concern with informing the public, print journalists eagerly court opportunities to appear on the non-informative shows hosted by Russert and his emulators, and down the rabbit hole we go.

Kevin Drum says this is a stale and clownish version of gotcha journalism adding:

The gotcha routine, no matter who it comes from, is bad for everyone, both Republicans and Democrats. Second, Russert’s schtick perpetuates the idea that the worst possible sin in a politician is displaying even a hint of inconsistency. But you know what? It turns out there are worse things. Obviously politicians should be held accountable for their words, but Russert and his colleagues ought to focus a little more on what’s really important and a little less on what somebody said in 1998.

Fire Tim Russert. Fire him now.