An excellent column by Paul Waldman on the Ghastliness of Tim Russert. (Note for British readers: he's America's version of Paxman except twice as smug and half as useful) Waldman makes the reasonable point that Russert and his ilk help ruin Presidential debates. On Tuesday in Philadelphia Russert was at it again, demanding if the cadidates would "guarantee" that Iran would not produce a nuclear weapon while they were President. As though the US President were some omnipotent being capable of achieving anything they desired merely on the ground that they, well, desired it. To her credit Hillary Clinton refused to be bullied into giving Russert the imbecilic answer he wanted, insisting only that she would do all she could to prevent Tehran getting the bomb.
In many ways that was worse stuff - because it was at least concerned with serious policy - than the nonsense served up at the end of the debate with questions about UFOs ("Do you believe in them?") and Halloween costumes.
Still, Waldman cites another excellent example of this banality:
Last month, near the end of the Democratic presidential debate in New Hampshire, moderator Tim Russert -- known as "Washington's toughest interviewer" and perhaps the most influential journalist in America -- had one last chance to pin the candidates down with his legendary common sense, persistence, and no-bull style. This is what he asked, first to Barack Obama:
"There's been a lot of discussion about the Democrats and the issue of faith and values. I want to ask you a simple question. Senator Obama, what is your favorite Bible verse?"
When Obama finished his answer, Russert said to the other candidates, "I want to give everyone a chance in this. You just take 10 seconds."
One can only lament the fact that neither Obama nor any other candidate saw fit to give the only appropriate answer: "Jesus Wept."