Friday, March 7


ANONYMOUS, in comments:

When did Clinton depants Russert? During what debate or interview?

The one we like to think of  as a Great Moment in American political history is from last August's debate when Mr. Sharp As A Spud set what he must have imagined was a brilliant trap by quoting An Unnamed Guest on his show favoring a Presidential exception to a ban on torture, going for a response first to Senator Obama, then Senator Biden, then to Hillary, who echoed them in disagreeing with the sentiment. At which point Timmy reveals--ho ho!--that unnamed guest was none other than William Jefferson Clinton!  To which Senator Clinton replied, "Well, he's not standing here. I am."

And, with apologies to the pudding we're about to over-egg, this is so far superior to Reagan's overpraised (and slightly misquoted) "I paid for this microphone" bit that we're obliged to ask why it's not even more famous, other than the fact that it was directed at a Big Media Star while Ronnie was just lecturing a small-town reporter (IIRC). (Not to mention the fact that the line just doesn't scan: it has all the charm and wit of your half-drunk father telling you you'll eat peas and like it as long as you're living under his roof, and it was at the service--this is sometimes forgotten--of the Reagan campaign seeking to toss all the other candidates off the stage excepting George H.W. Bush. )

First, Russert, with the NBC research division behind him and nothing to do but concoct questions, comes up with what is clearly designed as a Gotcha! Leaving aside the question of whether this is what Mr. Russert is supposed to be doing, we still run into a couple of problems right out of the box. The first is that Bill Clinton is quoted out of context; he raised the Ticking Time Bomb scenario in order to note that both the President and military command already possess the right to use extreme measures under the stilted circumstances, and he went on to deny it supported the case for what he called "sweeping authority." So either Russert willfully misused the quote, or he doesn't know the difference between a declarative statement and a figure of speech, and either instance suggests he ought to be in the upholstery business. And the reasonable presumption that crack NBC staffers were helping him along means it's likely someone along the line recognized the discrepancy, so either they're all dishonest or the staff is afraid to look Miss Ross Mr. Potato Head in the eyes.  (Potato.  Eyes.  Some times I tickle myself.)

Second, this is a gotcha? Assuming there really was some yawning maw of philosophical difference on display, what would that have to do with anything? If we are sufficiently Clinton averse we might say, Well, she's lying! Because Bill already gave the game away! Except if we are sufficient Clinton averse we don't need that sort of thing, and we believe their marriage is the greatest sham in the history of Western Civ anyway. The reasonably sane are left to conclude that the intention seen in the most favorable light possible for Russert, suggests he was simply trawling for half-baked headline material.

The only basis for what he did is deception. Granted, the man sells used cars for a living, but we might ask that he transcend that sort of thing for a single evening with the direction of a troubled country at stake. But then, look at the question again. An "unnamed guest, ho ho!" The clever trap is predicated on the prey missing the bait. Is it conceivable Mrs. Clinton could do so? Only if distracted by the arduousness of the serious task before her, now being moderated with unserious buffoonery; such distractedness would amount to nothing but might possibly generate Press dumbassery. Were we in that situation we'd begin our answer with, "Russert, you shitbag, who do you think you're trying to kid?" But Clinton waited long enough to let Timmy slam the trap closed on his own foot, and then gutted him. "He isn't standing here. I am." is superior to any of the twenty-seven other ways I can think of to say that, and I'm just typing away in a basement, with Russertesque time on my hands.  


Julia said...

because Reagan stole that from a movie? It's a line from State of the Union. Spencer Tracy has discovered that the Republican party is a soul-killing corrupt organization which soils everything it touches and he's about to tell the audience of his long-form commercial (paid for, supposedly, by grassroot donations - actually he's trying to buy the nomination with his own money). The party bosses, who have been using every ugly trick and pander they can find to try to slide him into the White House at the behest of a conservative newspaper owner who's trying to take over the country through a politician/rich guy who's (in this case, actually) in bed with her, try to cut off the broadcast.


Good movie.

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