Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Digby last night, summing up the mood of the entire left blogosphere:

How Do We Defeat Tim Russert?

But if there were no Tim Russert, Russertism would still be with us. We know this because there were Tim Russerts well before Tim Russert rose to prominence.

Remember Bernie Shaw? Remember the question he asked Michael Dukakis in that 1988 debate?

Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for her killer?

That's the quintessence of Russertism. Here's how Paul Waldman put it at Tapped last spring:

...Shaw wasn't trying to tease out the reasons Dukakis opposed the death penalty. His question was the worst kind of "gotcha," something with no policy content whatsoever. Its goal, and what it achieved so spectacularly, was to provide the "decisive moment" that would cast into sharp relief the character flaw that reporters had already decided was Dukakis' Achilles heel.

Sound familiar?

...There's an unbroken line between Shaw, and Kit Seelye and Ceci Connolly making up lies Al Gore never told, and Jodi Wilgoren musing on John Kerry's windsurfing, and Maureen Dowd writing about John Edwards' haircut, and on and on and on into this campaign and the next and the next. It's not about substance, and it isn't even about "character." It's about finding what reporters think is the worst thing about a candidate, and picking and picking at it until their evident belief that it should disqualify him from the presidency becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy....

That's Russertism for the past twenty years. I'm sorry to say there'll be Russertism forever -- unless there is a massive change to the way business is routinely done by the Beltway pess corps.

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