The Russert primary


Geraldine Sealey
February 10, 2004 1:58AM (UTC)

There was probably as much anticipation, at least in some circles, of Tim Russert's performance on Meet the Press Sunday as there was of the president's. So, how did he do?

Bob Somerby of Daily Howler says the "bulldog" of Sunday morning "rolled over and died," failing to ask effective follow-up questions or stop his subject from running down the clock with lengthy, speech-like answers.

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"Readers, you know that ol' bulldog, Tim Russert! Surely he got in Bush's face with a tough-talking follow-up question, a question designed to force his guest to get himself back on the mark! After all, Russert is the toughest pundit in all punditdom, pundits say. He's just "like a prosecutor," they like to say. You can run -- but you can't hide from Russert," Somerby chided.

"But no, Russert didnt follow up when Bush gave a speech to avoid his first question. As he did throughout the hour, he simply moved on to Question 2 when Bush failed to answer Question 1. What happened to that frightening bulldog -- the one the press has talked up for years? You saw it -- that bulldog turned to a puddy-tat, coughed a hairball and died. What became of Bulldog Tim? That 'dog' didn't bark, hunt or slobber."

In Editor & Publisher, Greg Mitchell gives 10 examples of follow-ups Russert could have asked.

David Corn at The Nation takes back his dubbing of Russert as "The Grand Inquisitor." "Russert is a master of the legitimate gotcha question. I admire his hard-nosed interviewing techniques. But he must have checked them before passing through the metal detectors at the White House," Corn says.

The usually tough Tom Shales was a push-over for Russert, though, writing in his review: "Somewhat reminiscent of Raymond Burr as Perry Mason when he bore down on a victim in the witness chair, Russert proved a tough questioner without becoming a showoff during the interview."


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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