Herr Russert, der Fuhrer?

One thing that’s new about this presidential election:  Candidates being urged by their potential followers to refuse to participate on certain mass media outlets, even though the exposure will help them.   Democratic candidates’ collective withdrawal from a Fox News-sponsored debate struck me as “vanity politics” earlier this year.  Now, the blogosphere is hunting down NBC’s Tim Russert for being … well, read this from The New Republic’s blogger Linda Hirshman:  

Last summer the Nevada Democrats pulled out of a debate sponsored by Fox News.  Loaded, racist and all the rest, the Dems

(Not to be a stickler for grammar, but the phrase “loaded, racist and all the rest,” which she intended to apply to Fox News, she mistakenly applies to “the Dems.”)  

decided it was incoherent for them to pretend Fox was a media outlet like any other.

Tim Russert is worse,

What??  Worse than “racist?” (I’m not sure what she means by “loaded.”  Stoned?) Even if you accept the rather extreme premise that Fox News is “racist,” what can it possibly mean for a news anchor and debate moderator to be worse than a racist?  Well, stay tuned:

because he has the mantle of the venerable NBC, network of Nipper, the radio dog. Bulletin to Democrats: Just Say No to Russert. 

See my piece at the Guardian.

I’d like to but the link doesn’t work.

Then she lists a number of other blogospheric attacks on Russert from sources like The American Prospect, Firedoglake and Ezra Klein.  One might think these posts would support the “worse than racist” charge.  But no, actually they don’t. 

There is sharp criticism of Russert’s style of questioning from The American Prospect’s Paul Waldman, but his post is hardly even partisan.  Taylor Marsh accuses Russert of being unfair and possibly sexist, and to prove her point she counts up the number of questions Hillary got in the recent debate; but Marsh is easy to refute.  The fact is, Hillary Clinton has a 31-point lead in the polls.  She is far and away the front-runner.  Given that, if a moderator distributed the questions evenly among all the candidates, they would be giving the front-runner an enormous advantage. 

If Joe Biden is asked to respond to the campaign positions taken by Dennis Kucinich, who cares? The fact is, it’s Sen. Clinton’s race to lose now, and there is a great public interest in finding out more about her.  She has earned the added scrutiny by the likelihood of her success.

Which makes Tim Russert, according to Ms. Hirshman, writing under the imprimatur of the venerable New Republic, a…wait for it…Nazi!!!!  Here, read for yourself:

Oh, and for you Obama and Edwards supporters,

(i.e. you challengers who might think you benefit from a tougher look at Hillary,) 

remember the story about the man who didn’t stand up to the Nazis when they came for his neighbors.

There it is.  What’s worse than being a racist?  Tim Russert is a Nazi.  And he’s getting ready to extermine all the Democratic candidates, starting with Hillary Clinton. 

Because of Russert’s, er, Nazi tendencies, Hirshman suggests the Democratic candidates agree no longer to appear on any show or in any debate Russert moderates.   Isn’t that what she means by “Just Say No?”

Apart from the goofiness of her attack on Russert, Hirshman’s advice is incredibly destructive, especially if it catches on as a netroots meme.  Where does it stop? No Fox, no NBC, and if anyone else screws up and asks too many tough questions, then the pressure will be put on candidates to shun them too.  I’m looking at you, Anderson Cooper!

Here’s the fallacy.  Even if every potentially tough or challenging media outlet is ruled out of bounds by netroots activists, that’s not going to stop the Republicans from going on the attack when it’s their turn.  A candidate who has been through the gantlet is far more prepared to counter attacks, fair or unfair, in the heat of a campaign.

But Hirshman and others don’t want that.  They want softball questions only, please, and complete control of “the narrative” of the campaign.  Those journalists who disrupt “the narrative” with their nosy questions — they’re the enemy, according to this view.  Democratic candidates will only appear when reporters or moderators comply with how the candidates want to present themselves.

This is the path to Democratic defeat. 

It’s also disturbing on its face.   For someone willing to call a guy like Tim Russert a “Nazi,” she seems to have a creepy yearning for political control of the media.


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