“The Unbearable Inanity of Tim Russert”

“THE UNBEARABLE INANITY OF TIM RUSSERT”….Matt Yglesias comments on one of Tim Russert’s questions during Tuesday night’s debate:

Did Tim Russert really just ask if John Edwards speaking to Musharraf after the Bhutto assassination was part of an effort to give Musharraf “cover” of some kind? I believe he did. It would have been pretty sweet if Edwards had broken down Perry Mason-style and ‘fessed up to the fact that he and Pervez conspired to kill her. But no dice. Alternatively, Edwards could have gone with the old “Tim, you’ve asked a lot of dumb questions in your day, but this really takes the cake.”

This was vintage Russert: asking a juvenile gotcha question instead of something genuinely tough. In “The Unbearable Inanity of Tim Russert,” in our January issue, Matt describes the vicious circle that this style produces:

Viewers watch a candidate getting grilled by Russert not to assess the candidate’s views but to assess his or her ability to withstand the grilling. And, when this sort of toughness and sparring becomes its own reward, the vacuity of the questioning is almost guaranteed. After all, if you asked a politician a serious, important question and got a perfectly good answer, then maybe, for a moment, you couldn’t be tough. Instead, Russert relies on his crutch of confronting politicians with allegedly contradictory statements they’ve made — to highly monotonous effect.

Read the whole thing here.