November 12, 2007

Could Tim Russert please be more boring?

Matt Yglesias is outraged — just outraged — at Tim Russert. How dare that man drive politicians into a corner with tough questions instead of giving them space to inform us.

According to Yglesias, questions with the goal of providing information about the candidates' policies would — take global warming for example — show how fine the Democrats are and trap only Republicans:
And as it happens, the plans released by Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards are all based on good science and good economics. So asking them questions aimed at elucidating their plans shouldn't lead to any embarrassing incidents....

John McCain, by contrast, might or might not end up embarrassed by serious questions about his plan... His Republican counterparts, by contrast, would almost certainly wind up embarrassed by serious questions about their views of climate change since their policies are badly at odds with reality.
Come on, Russert! Can't you set things up to embarrass Republicans and not Democrats? But clear away Yglesias's laughable bias and his point is that candidates should be given room to lecture us about their policies. Or not us... because I wouldn't watch such a boring TV show... but somebody... or maybe nobody...
[Russert] 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.
It's unethical to confront political candidates with the contradictions in their own statements and with pointed criticisms from their opponents? It's perverse? Russert's a sadist, don't you know, because he won't let our politicians get comfortable.

IN THE COMMENTS: Zeb Quinn writes: "It was quite clear in the immediate aftermath of the last debate that the Clintonistas had their long knives out for Russert. This more of that." Yes, I think that's right. Is Yglesias a Clinton sycophant? I notice a lot of bloggers nodding their heads a little too eagerly at the rather flabby Yglesipost. Including Kevin Drum, whom I'd already suspected was a Clinton sycophant.

59 comments:

Simon said...

I don't have time to look it up right now, but my recollection is that Yglesias comments come hot on the heels from complaints by his fellow leftospherians last week that Russert wasn't agressive enough.

Slim999 said...

If you say a lie enough times, it becomes the truth.

Freeman Hunt said...

It's such a tough job seeking the seat of utmost power in the world--why can't we just cut them some slack?

AllenS said...

It's questioners like Yglesias that would come up with something akin to this: "So what do you wear, boxers or briefs?"

bill said...

Age of Scrutiny

From Interface, by Neal Stephenson and J. Frederick George.

Today, we are in the Age of Scrutiny. A public figure must withstand the scrutiny of the media. The President is the ultimate public figure and must stand up under ultimate scrutiny; he is like a man stretched out on a rack in the public square in some medieval shithole of a town, undergoing the rigors of the Inquisition. Like the medieval trial by ordeal, the Age of Scrutiny sneers at rational inquiry and debate, and presumes that mere oaths and protestations are deceptions and lies. The only way to discover the real truth is by the rite of the ordeal, which exposes the subject to such inhuman strain that any defect in his character will cause him to crack wide open, like a flawed diamond. It is a mystical procedure that skirts rationality, which is seen as the work of the Devil, instead drawing down a higher, ineffable power. Like the Roman haruspex who foretold the outcome of a battle, not by analyzing the strengths of the opposing forces but by groping through the steaming guts of a slaughtered ram, we seek to establish a candidate's fitness for office by pinning him under the lights of a television studio and counting the number of times he blinks his eyes in a minute, deconstructing his use of eye contact, monitoring his gesticulations--whether his hands are held open or closed, towards or away from the camera, spread open forthcomingly or clenched like grasping claws.

I paint a depressing picture here. But we, you and I, are like the literate monks who nurtured the flickering flame of Greek rationality through the Dark Ages, remaining underground, knowing each other by secret signs and code words, meeting in cellars and thickets to exchange our dangerous and subversive ideas. We do not have the strength to change the minds of the illiterate multitude. But we do have the wit to exploit their foolishness, to familiarize ourselves with their stunted thought patterns, and to use that knowledge to manipulate them toward the goals that we all know are, quote, right and true, unquote...

P. Rich said...

Yglesias is just one more in a long, long line of useful idiots, a descriptor for which we have V. I. Lenin to thank. You go, Comrade Yg.

ricpic said...

Good is good and bad is bad
And ne'er the twain shall meet.
He who makes the twain reverse?
Now that's a Lefty feat.

EnigmatiCore said...

Why the label for Kevin Drum?

Zeb Quinn said...

It was quite clear in the immediate aftermath of the last debate that the Clintonistas had their long knives out for Russert. This more of that.

Joseph Hovsep said...

Yglesias is showing some partisanship there, but I'm sympathetic to his point about the way Russert interviews politicians. He spends so much time playing "gotcha" demanding that guests justify old quotes without providing much context. That technique has its merits (it makes it hard to fall back on talking points), but it has its limitations too.

Pogo said...

the plans released by Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards are all based on good science and good economics

Since when have socialism and high tax rates been bolstered by "good science and good economics"? I mean, except in proving that road is a sure one to economic failure?

Ann Althouse said...

EnigmatiCore said..."Why the label for Kevin Drum?"

It's a vestige -- now eliminated -- of a longer version of this post. I was going to have the follow-on commentary nodding heads at Yglesias's post, but it was boring, so I edited it out.

Bissage said...

(1) Okay, okay, I get it. Mr. Yglesias thinks Mr. Russert is a big meanie.

(2) I don’t know what specific lines of questioning Mr. Yglesia is talking about (the piece is short on detail) but doesn’t a candidate for public office put his or her character and electability at issue? Upon that ground, anything short of badgering would be fair game.

(3) From the piece it seems Mr. Yglesias wishes to stand athwart history shouting: “Hey, somebody turn down the heat in this kitchen. Somebody might get embarrassed.”

(4) I’m reminded of a cross-examination scene that played out during a murder trial. A defense witness’ story was starting to fall apart and things started to heat up. He began arguing with the prosecutor who got up in his face and spread his arms out and shouted, “STOP!” The witness went quiet and the prosecutor turned around so the jury could see him and said, “That’s the beauty of the way things work around here, Mr. Jones. I get to stand here and ask you questions . . . and you get to sit there and answer them.” No more guff from that witness.

(5) I doubt Mr. Russert ever did anything like that, the big meanie!

Joseph Hovsep said...

Actually, I think what Yglesias wrote is pretty measured and thoughtful. I don't think "outraged" is a fair description of his post. He concedes that a journalist's gotcha questions can be useful, but only to the extent that their ultimate goal is to make a candidate's views or plans clearer. Playing gotcah isn't particularly useful journalistically if the goal is simply to make the target uncomfortable or embarassed or stumped.

Bilby said...

I predict that Tim Russert will ask Hillary about her plans for Social Security and if she agrees with the moonbats who are claiming there's no problem with it. She will then be asked how her plan to deal with the problem, if there is one, differs from Obama's. Then the nutroots will rise up in unison to screech "Stop the gotcha questions!"

caffeine soldier said...

Althouse defending Russert, tsk,tsk...
I really thought she is too smart to support the crappy journamalism of Timmey. His handling of the debate was a huge waste of time. But maybe Althouse has a reason for not wanting political discourse on TV to center around the issues, instead of the pooh-poohs...

vnjagvet said...

Tim was not popular among Chaney/Libby supporters earlier this year. Now those supporting Hillary! are very unhappy with him.

Is freedom of the press threatened?

More at 11:00.

Henry said...

Where's Larry King when you need him?

rcocean said...

"Could Tim Russert please be more boring?"

Lol. Great post. I think you're completely correct. What can you say about MY? He's really a partisan democrat - in the tank for Hilary! - but smart enough to dress it up in intellectual concerns about policy, process, etc.

The idea that we all want to watch Mr.Potato Head lob questions about climate change and wind power is too funny.

Doyle said...

What is the substance of your defense of Russert, exactly? That Democrats are biased for wanting political journalists to deal with issues instead of just trying to embarrass people? You really need to flesh that out a little, because this post reads like you're just mocking Yglesias for being "outraged" and generally being the idiot hack you are.

And no, Yglesias is not a "Clinton sycophant." He hasn't come out in favor of any particular candidate but he's said lots of nice things about Edwards and to a lesser extent Obama, and considers Clinton overly hawkish.

Doyle said...

It's questioners like Yglesias that would come up with something akin to this: "So what do you wear, boxers or briefs?"

The fact is that the dumber our political discourse is, the better for Republicans.

We elected our current president, back in the glory days of 2000, because the Washington press corps thought he was someone they'd like to have a beer with.

That worked out really badly, and just because the GOP field includes a candidate who still calls Russia the Soviet Union, doesn't mean that it wouldn't be a good idea to have candidates spend less time defending themselves against Russert's often trivial attacks and more time discussing policy.

Randy (Internet Ronin) said...

FWIW, Yglesias is definitely not a Clinton partisan. It seems to me that he is inclined to support Obama, but likes Edwards as well. In this post, though, he is complaining about Obama's treatment. If he were a Clinton partisan, he would think Russert was only doing his job.

Doyle said...

From the piece it seems Mr. Yglesias wishes to stand athwart history shouting: “Hey, somebody turn down the heat in this kitchen. Somebody might get embarrassed.”

No, you're missing the point. It's not a matter of whether candidates get embarrassed. It's what is considered an embarrassment by people like Tim Russert.

For example, Mitt Romney recently called for the US to boycott a UN council that it already boycotts. Will Timmy ask him whether this kind of thing shows that he doesn't have a handle on foreign policy yet? I guess he might still, but hasn't yet.

Instead, we get Timmy spending a whole line of questioning trying to show that Hillary disagrees with her husband on one issue or another, as if that would be a mark of internal inconsistency.

But of course that's what Clinton-obsessed people want to talk about, because they don't really have any interest in policy and just want MTP to be a highbrow "Us Weekly."

Doyle said...

his point is that candidates should be given room to lecture us about their policies. Or not us... because I wouldn't watch such a boring TV show.

Proof that it is possible not only to get through law school, but (somehow) land a job teaching law, without having the intellectual curiosity to want to know what a presidential candidate plans to do as president.

No wonder you were inadvertently a Democrat for so long! It was probably just based on the clothes other Democrats were wearing, but then Bush put on the flight suit and it was all over.

Simon said...

Doyle said...
"We elected our current president, back in the glory days of 2000, because the Washington press corps thought he was someone they'd like to have a beer with."

I think you'd be hard pressed to make the case that Bush voters were much interested in the opinion of the Washington press corps.

Doyle said...


I think you'd be hard pressed to make the case that Bush voters were much interested in the opinion of the Washington press corps.


Not the "base," no, but in 2000 there were Bush voters who hadn't completely taken leave of their mental faculties. People thought there wasn't much of a difference between the two candidates. So I think it's fair to say in that election more than others the independent/undecided vote was influenced by the media CW.

Trevor said...

"the flabby Yglesipost"?

Why not try "doughy" again? That got you so much of a response last time.

What'sa matter? Kevin Drum not dignify your classy post with a response so you're trying to taunt another lefty blogger? Where's the jab at Matt's appearance? You could make a crack at his age like you did with Ezra Klein. Hmm, yeah, there's an idea. Maybe if Matt doesn't respond you can go after Ezra next.

Your schtick is so transparent, lady.

rcocean said...

Well Matt isn't just Doughy, he's FAT. Well, at least rotund.

Trevor said...

Ah. Or just leave it to the Althouse sycophants. That worked so well during the Valenti-breast controversy.

B said...

Democrats don't want questions from Fox News.

Lefties don't like it when Russert asks hard questions.

Is there any better example of the weakness and hypocrisy of the liberal mind?

Ann Althouse said...

Trevor: "the flabby Yglesipost"? 'Why not try "doughy" again? That got you so much of a response last time."

Trevor's a little slow on the uptake. I didn't say Yglesias was flabby. I said his post — the "Yglesipost" — is flabby. The writing is flabby. Just a little wordplay to keep me from going out of my mind reading the blogospheric drivel... or is it a tsunami?

"What'sa matter? Kevin Drum not dignify your classy post with a response so you're trying to taunt another lefty blogger? Where's the jab at Matt's appearance? You could make a crack at his age like you did with Ezra Klein. Hmm, yeah, there's an idea. Maybe if Matt doesn't respond you can go after Ezra next."

Ezra, Matt, Kevin... do these people all live together or something? They never stop talking about each other's beige observations and they've even got other people linking their names together. What gives? It's so dull!

Ann Althouse said...

And it's all explained in the new vlog, so scroll up.

B said...

May I please add this?

The genius of Bill Clinton in his perpetual campaigning is this: be the first to accuse the other side of the dirty stuff you yourself are doing and then make it seem like you haven risen above it. The despicable Mandy Grunwald was his main hatchet person in the first campaign. Just Google her name - you'll feel like you need a shower afterwards.

Hillary is practicing Bill 101: Claim you can take the heat when you actually choked and flustered, and hope that by repeating a falsehood enough times that the lie will become, for many, the truth.

Anyone remember how second-place in New Hampshire in '92 (Tsongas won) took all the news because it was spun into Clinton being the "Comeback Kid"? Later, when watching the Democratic National Convention, I remember a news reporter actually talking about Clinton's "win" in the New Hampshire primary. Amazing!

The Clinton spin machine: like no other!

Trevor said...

One lover of the banal's "dull" is another actively engaged reader's "substantive."

Thanks ever so much for explaining that you were talking about Yglesias' writing. It's your patience and care for readers who aren't engaging in their own wordplay and callbacks that make my incomprehensible decision to keep coming here worth it all.

Doyle said...

Ann can't be bothered to read anything that's not about her or Hillary Clinton for more than a couple paragraphs.

And yes I'd HIGHLY recommend the video for people who wonder if Ann's really as deranged as she seems.

Look for her defense of the Valenti Breast post as being "left wing." It's faaantastic!

Trevor said...

Not just "left wing," but "radical feminism." Up is down, folks. It's now feminist to make cracks about a woman's appearance and to compare her to a woman famous for giving oral sex. And, especially, to provide cover for misogynist sycophantic commenters to do the same.

Stuart said...

Tim Russert said recently (I think it was on his CNBC show that is broadcast on Saturdays now) that his intent is not to play "gotcha" with his guests, but to give them an opportunity to explain how their thinking has evolved regarding their viewpoints. That appears to be a more meaningful way to better understand and evaluate politicians - if a politician can't answer those types of questions, then that person can't be credible. Also, MTP is not a forum for politicians to explain their policy positions in a narrative format - leave that to others (politician's web site, etc.).

Fred said...

A couple years ago Matt Yglesias admitted he was a "paternalist", and proudly defended this position. (Sorry, I'm too lazy to look up the original link. Google shows numerous relevant results.)
Everything he says should be understood in that light.

Doyle said...

Stuart -

Do you really think that of all the formats, the "That wasn't what you were saying in the mid-80s, and we have proof!" is the most enlightening?

I really don't. If there were a way to put politicians on lie detectors to find out if they really mean what they're saying now or what they were saying then, I'd be all for it.

But the constant harping on contradictions as such, without regard for the actual underlying issue, doesn't seem all that informative to me.

Ever since the 2004 campaign it's been taken for granted that "flip flopping" is the worst thing a candidate could do (because John Kerry supposedly did it).

But we've got a president who has been nothing if not steadfast, faithful to his wife, and yet somehow the worst president ever. Go figure.

Doyle said...

Without doing the legwork that fred is too lazy to do, I'm going to guess his characterization is lacking.

Doyle said...

...Sure enough! The defense of "paternalism" was in regard to the treatment of a 16-year old football prodigy with an IQ of 80, (i.e. someone only slightly more intellectually developed than Ann).

Balfegor said...

Re: Doyle

Instead, we get Timmy spending a whole line of questioning trying to show that Hillary disagrees with her husband on one issue or another, as if that would be a mark of internal inconsistency.

It's not an internal inconsistency, but it is somewhat important for people to know. To the extent that expectations of a Clinton II presidency are shaped by the experience of Clinton I -- and this is, let's be honest, a great extent -- it's important to suss out the differences.

That said, re:

Yes, I think that's right. Is Yglesias a Clinton sycophant?

Come on! Her touch cures scrofula! It's not "sycophantic" if the object is anointed by Heaven. Vivat Regina! haha

Cedarford said...

And as it happens, the plans released by Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards are all based on good science and good economics. So asking them questions aimed at elucidating their plans shouldn't lead to any embarrassing incidents....

John McCain, by contrast, might or might not end up embarrassed by serious questions about his plan... His Republican counterparts, by contrast, would almost certainly wind up embarrassed by serious questions about their views of climate change since their policies are badly at odds with reality.


Please. I would say the opposite is true. The most pressing problem is the ending of the oil age, and the fact that most of the oil now comes from unstable parts of the planet dominated by adversaries of the West.

The second most pressing problem is unchecked population growth, besides augering in the beginning of the last round of mass extinctions, running out of water and ceratin strategic minerals...is population growth eats up any energy conservation gains. Energy independence was more feasible in 1973v when we had 225 million Americans. Less so in 2007 Open Borders America of 300 million. Much less so in 2030 when the Census projects 363, and 420 million Americans and illegals by 2050 if present legal and illegal immigration and reunification of border jumpers families continues.

3rd in energy priority is combating overuse of fossil fuel that causes excess CO2 generation, as the effects are longer term than the oil energy crisis and the looming extinction of species, ecosystem collapse, negation of energy conservation savings from human overpopulation.

In those priorities, the Republicans generally want to close Open Borders. They want to use coal with carbon recovery, gas, synthetic oil, and lots more nuclear to meet future energy needs. As well as see about what oil and gas can be found by eliminating environmentalists blocking all energy exploration off our Coasts except a sliver of the Gulf, and 1/4 of the American landmass.
They want more solar, wind but have no illusions that "exciting alternate energy" will ever amount to anything but a small portion of our energy sources able to serve only 2-3 million American's energy needs by 2052.

America uses 108 Quadrillion BTUs of energy. 40 of that oil. 16 Quads of oil tied to private transportation. With 420 million people projected in under 50 years, even with conservation, we will need 125-130 Quads.

Less than 1 Quad, after 10s of billions and constant media hyping - comes from "exciting renewables" like solar and wind.


Then there is the "reasonable"
Democrat position on energy.

Global warming is the highest priority, the other presently looming crises can be backburnered a while longer because Algore is right, and he is good and he cares...so nothing is more important than global warming..

No oil or gas exploration.
Coal is evil, nuclear is worse. (Except Obama defies the crowd on coal and is "open" to nuclear - while Hillary obfuscates and says she is neither for or against coal and nuclear..."For now, describe me as agnostic." WTF??)

And, plenty of whacky new taxes and proposals that make no economic sense. More flourescent lightbulbs! Cardigan sweaters! Don't use plastic bags on your private jets - they are bad. One square of toilet paper a day. Shut down coal plants and know with the right equipment, you can make a gallon of biodiesel out of a months kitchen wastes and be energy independent! (Math was never a Lefty strong suite, nor realization that it took a lot more than a counple gallons of fossil energy to make the kitchen wastes in the 1st place)

Verso said...

Ann,
Your arguments are always at their clearest and most cogent when you lace them with invective and personal attacks. Nicely done!

Flabby, sychophantic, laughable.

Good stuff!

Keep up the hard work.

Doyle said...

[Republicans] want to use coal with carbon recovery, gas, synthetic oil, and lots more nuclear to meet future energy needs.

Yeah you can't go to a GOP event without someone going on and on about the importance of carbon recovery. And certainly elected Republicans like James Inhofe have been spearheading efforts to make a lot of progress there.

Then there is the "reasonable"
Democrat position on energy.

Global warming is the highest priority, the other presently looming crises can be backburnered a while longer because Algore is right, and he is good and he cares...so nothing is more important than global warming..


Well even though it's probably true that no issue is as significant for our species as global warming, it doesn't get the MOST emphasis from any of the Dem candidates.

No oil or gas exploration.

Well now you're clearly just making stuff up.

Trevor said...

Careful, Cedarford, you're going to bore Althouse with your dull analysis. Don't you have anything fun to say about Clinton or Althouse or both of them?

C'mon and take a page from Verso here and just compliment Althouse for making non-substantive fun of other people.

Bruce Hayden said...

I actually think that Russert is one of the best at this for just this sort of thing. What the Clinton camp was complaining about was that he wasn't just tossing soft balls at her.

Do we really want a president who can only handle pre-scripted responses? We have seen a lot of this sort of debating this time, esp. on the Democratic side.

I think that this was a very legitimate question for Hillary!. She is trying to have it both ways in the debate over immigration, and you can't. A significant majority of the country wants much better border security, but the Washington establishment, as well as other parts of the Democratic party elite are more interested in rights and benefits for illegal immigrants. Which side is she on? Another prescripted answer where she is able to straddle the question without committing either way doesn't help anyone determine whether they agreed with her or not.

Yes, her response hurt her. It should have. She took a position at odds with the views of a majority of American voters. They should know this about her, and moderators who help candidates hide inconvenient positions don't do most of us any good.

I should add that Russert does this to both sides. He asks tough questions that need to be asked. This time, the hero of the left was the casualty. But next time, it is likely to be someone on the right.

Jeff said...

I think you've totally missed Matt's point. The problem is not that Russert asks tough questions that put politicians in uncomfortable positions. It's that he's so focused on asking tough questions, that he hones in on trivia and not the stuff that really matters.

He's not wishing that Russert would give politicians time to bloviate, but rather that he'd ask questions that would result in answers that inform the audience. As it stands, he just tries to make them all look like hypocrites, often over minor matters.

Doyle said...

I think Cedarford should get credit for his not-so-subtle implication that Democrats are only concerned about global warming because they are under the spell of Al Gore. That it has to do more with Svengali-like charm than, say, the fact that carbon emissions are raising the Earth's temperature with potentially catastrophic results.

I guess it makes sense in a way. One need only look at (and listen to) their fearless leader to know that wingnuts are less data-driven than personality-driven.

lurker2209 said...

Why can't Russert ask hardball questions about the details of their policy proposals? It's like this post and the comments sets up a false dichotomy between gotcha questions on random things the candidates have said and opportunities for them to wax eloquently on the talking points of their policy proposals. Surely there are more than just those two options.

Actually, I'd probably vote for whoever could explain, using correct scientific terminology, why methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than C02. I realize that we don't need the president to be a scientist to come up with a good environmental policy, but a basic understanding of the scientific details of the problem would go a long way towards reassuring me that the candidate understands the issue enough to come up with a good solution.

Simon said...

Doyle said...
"I think Cedarford should get credit for his not-so-subtle implication that Democrats are only concerned about global warming because they are under the spell of Al Gore."

You're right: it has far more to do with the need to find something to believe in, something to fulfill the predilection to believe that's built into us. It's about finding a substitute for God.

J Lee said...

I think part of the problem with Russert is that his past history of having been an aide to Democratic elected officials like Pat Moynihan makes his tough questioning of Hillary comes off as something like heresy.

People like Yglesias expect those type of questions from someone like Chris Wallace at Fox News, because of who he works for, and in fact, Bill and Hillary use those types of questions from Fox to gain support among the party faithful for their campaign (Bill going off at Wallace last year wouldn't have happened if Chris was still working at ABC). In contrast, what the exepct from Russert and NBC is a relatively docile intervew -- maybe not on the suck-up level of the pablum queries George Stephanopolous throws out at Democrats over at "This Week", but definitely not on the level of what Wallace does over at Fox.

On the other hand, if Hillary is elected, someone will have to fulfill the role of Sidney Blumenthal as the administration's designated attack dog with plausible White House denyability. Sid's still around, so it's possible he could reclaim the job, but other folks out there might be angling to become the go-to person for counterattacks on any of the Clinton's perceived enemies. Matt may not actually believe some of the stuff he wrote about Russert, but could be doing it as a way of auditioning for the Blumenathal role in a Clinton II administration.

Mred said...

My goodness, I just get breathless when Trevor and Doyle attack together, as a pair, almost touching one another and all done effortlessly as an ageless doubles pair skating to whiny music. The absolute icing on this yummy Yglesias party is when they attack her attacks on him by attacking her.

Tehee, this is so much fun! Can we keep on belittling everyone that belittles us by not agreeing with our belittling?

Oh, and Doyle and Trevor, your bright new blue aLGore future sky is falling on you, you poopy heads.

John Stodder said...

I would defend Russert's methods completely, regardless of who it helped or hurt.

We have become so accustomed to campaign spin and "repositioning" that we've forgotten that the only way to predict what kind of president a candidate would be is their record, including public statements, votes and other public acts.

To pick on the worst example, John Edwards has veered from the center to the right to the left in his short and undistinguished political career, and acts as if his past statements should mean nothing.

After Abe Lincoln was nominated for president, he didn't campaign at all. His followers distributed copies of past speeches and positions he had taken, combined with the party platform, and that was it. When someone had a question about a subject, he left it to an underling to give them some of his past writings on the topic.

CSPAN did a Reagan Library feature last Friday, which included an interview with Eleanor Clift in 1984. Reagan said he didn't think presidential debates served the public interest because, as he explained, both he and Walter Mondale had each been in public life for many years and had accumulated a long record of involvement in public policy. Why should the whole election turn on two or three debates, Reagan said, when there is so much already on the record on which to base one's vote?

Maybe that's unrealistic, but what Yglesias seems to be saying is the opposite, that the media should facilitate candidates who want to bend with the times by only focusing on their current campaign proposals, and not on their past public life. If a candidate stood for X for 20 years but has dropped that position in favor of a diametrically opposed position, they should at least have to explain why. Russert isn't embarrassing the candidates, but their inability to explain an obviously politically inspired conversion might be embarrassing, depending on how they handle the question.

mockmook said...

Yglesias would have a leg to stand on if he didn't say that a Repub couldn't have coherence on GW; Yglesias is obviously biased in this.

Russert's method is debatable, but to only squeal when your side is hurt just reeks of hypocrisy.

Fred Thompson was on MTP recently, and he deftly handled all these gotcha questions. How? He simply stated clearly and succinctly what he believes.

Why can't Democrats do that?

AlphaLiberal said...

Really, Althouse, you're such a liar.

Yeglesias calls for questioning that informs, instead of playing gotchya.

He makes the rather clear point that the only candidates to be embarrassed would be the ones with no plans or no answers on substantive issues.

This was NOT a partisan plan by Ygelsias. Here's what he said about a questions that might embarrass Obama and Clinton:

"Turning back to the Democrats, a serious question about Clinton's biofuels subsidies or Barack Obama's past support of coal gasification schemes might prompt some embarrassment and would be worth asking."

To paint this as a partisan rant is completely disingenuous.

AlphaLiberal said...

For the record, I've brought the above facts to Ann Althouse's attention and she refuses to address her blatantly false statement.

That exchange is here.

Revenant said...

To paint this as a partisan rant is completely disingenuous.

Sure. We all remember those posts Yglesias wrote criticizing the reporters who kept asking Bush to admit that the Iraq war was a mistake.

Oh, wait, never mind. He forgot to care about gotcha questions until they were being asked of Democrats. But not for partisan reasons, heavens no. It was sheer coincidence. I'm sure he'll criticize the gotcha questions during the next Republican debate, too.

AlphaLiberal said...

Revenant, Ann was criticizing the post. Got it? She said, repeatedly and even today, the point of the post was no good because it was one-sided and biased.

She was wrong, patently wrong. It was easy to find that she was wrong.

Ygelsias criticized Dems and Rs in the post.

Ann Althouse is lying to you.