Why NBC Should Fire Tim “Gotcha” Russert

Media Matters catches Russert in another gotcha moment:

During his November 11 Meet the Press interview with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (IL) on NBC’s Meet the Press, host Tim Russert asserted that “critics will say you’ve not been a leader against the war,” and then read a quote he attributed to Obama: “In July of 2004, Barack Obama: ‘I’m not privy to Senate intelligence reports. … What would I have done? I don’t know,’ in terms of how you would have voted on the war.” After quoting two other Obama statements on the war, Russert concluded: “It doesn’t seem that you were firmly wedded against the war and that you left some wiggle room that, if you were in the Senate, you may have voted for it.” However, in citing Obama’s comment “What would I have done? I don’t know,” Russert did not quote the very next sentence of Obama’s statement, which was, “What I know is that from my vantage point the case [for authorizing the war] was not made.”

I hope Senator Obama’s campaign for this sheer dishonesty on the part of Mr. Russert. But only after the Senator apologizes to Senator Clinton for that driver’s license flair up during the last Democratic debate. John McLaughlin explained why during the taping of The McLaughlin Group on November 2, 2007:

Issue Two: The Non-Smoking Gun.

It’s tough to be number one, and Hillary Clinton is the number one Democratic contender for president. All the polls say so. So her rivals, Democrats all, tried to trap the senator with the smoking gun of double-talking out of both sides of her mouth. They targeted the issue of whether New York driver’s licenses should be granted to illegal immigrants in New York State.

By the way, there are over 500,000 illegal immigrants in New York State.

(Begin videotaped segment.)

TIM RUSSERT (NBC News): Do you, the New York senator, Hillary Clinton, support the New York governor’s plan to give illegal immigrants a driver’s license? You told the New Hampshire paper it made a lot of sense. Do you support his plan?

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY): You know, Tim, this is where everybody plays “gotcha.” It makes a lot of sense. What is the governor supposed to do? He is dealing with a serious problem. We have failed, and George Bush has failed.

(End videotaped segment.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: We’ve all seen repeatedly the videotaped sequence on the alleged inconsistency in what Hillary said. So let’s go to Nashua. Tim Russert built his question out of Hillary’s comments to a newspaper editorial board in Nashua, New Hampshire.

Here’s what Hillary said at Nashua: “I think it’s important to bring everybody out of the shadows, to do the background checks, to deport those who have outstanding warrants or have committed crimes in the United States, and then to say to those who wish to stay here, ‘You have to pay back taxes. You have to pay a fine. You have to learn English, and you have to wait in line.’ And I hate to see any state being pushed to try to take this into their own hands because the federal government has failed.

“So I know exactly what Governor Spitzer is trying to do, and it makes a lot of sense, because he’s trying to get people out of the shadows. He’s trying to say, ‘Okay, come forward and we will give you this license.’ But without a federal policy in effect, people will come forward and they could get picked up by ICE” – that’s the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency – “tomorrow. I mean, this cannot work state by state. It has to be looked at comprehensively.”

Now, the question is, are there any differences between what she said in Nashua and what she said at the Democratic debate? I ask you, Eleanor. MS. CLIFT: Well, you can’t tell whether she’s for it or against it in that long response. And what she’s doing is —

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I disagree with you.

MS. CLIFT: Well, she’s

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you analyze the language, she’s in favor of what Spitzer’s generally doing to bring aliens out of the darkness.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The shadows.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but she says that in the context of the larger issue that it’s not a good idea state by state.

Well – this needs to be done at the Federal level so Senator Clinton was getting this right. Of course, once Russert dishonestly opened the door with his cherry picked gotcha, a sleaze ball candidate would have pounced on it. I never thought of John Edwards and Senator Obama as sleaze balls – but pounced they did. We also heard GOP sleaze Rudy Giuliani praising Obama as he also dishonestly attacked Senator Clinton. While one would expect such garbage from Giuliani, I was shocked at the dishonesty from John Edwards and Senator Obama. Shame on both of them.

But seriously – why on earth does Tim Russert have a job at any outfit outside of Faux News? This is nothing new from this hack. Meet the Press used to be a stellar Sunday news interview show. It could still be – once NBC fires Tim Russert.