The proud son of Buffalo ...


Pierce is angry:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc --

Slacker Friday -- Special Wednesday Edition.

I suspect that truth may never get its boots on in reference to the job L'il Timmy Russert did last night. Since social climbers, courtiers, and people who think Don Imus is funny likely already have set the performance in marble, do let me just say in meek dissent that the man now stands revealed for the simmering tub of abject Fail he's always been.

"What if giant metal monkey beasts land on the Mall and eat the Capitol Dome? What will you do then, huh? HUH?"

"Will you take a pledge right now to make sure that Ayman al-Zawahiri never comes to the Vineyard and steals my newspaper off my lawn? Will you? WILL YOU?"

"Your pastor has praised somebody who said something odious -- Here, let me read you the most garish highlights -- and now will you REJECT him? Not denounce him. REJECT HIM?"

"In my hometown of Buffalo."

Oh, bite me, please.

This isn't journalism. I don't know what it is. Investigative collating, I guess. The next time MSNBC decides to treat us to 90 minutes of TV star dick-waving, it should advertise it as such, and then I could've watched Tennessee play Vanderbilt like I wanted to in the first place. Obama simply has to get better with the snark. He should have prefaced every answer with, "Well, Tim, it may look that way from the piazza on Jack Welch's summer place, but here in Cleveland..." He should have Agnewed Russert into next Tuesday.

(Note to the relatively harmless Brian Williams: it's OK if the candidates talk for 17 minutes about their health-care plans. Really, it is. The issue's sort of, you know, important to folks.)

It's tough to decide whether to be a hack or a shill, so Russert went for the parlay last night. His hackery was demonstrated with his little gotcha on the next Russian president. There are those of us whose memories go back a ways, and we remember when our good friend Andy Hiller dropped a pop quiz on C-Plus Augustus back in 2000 and all the Beltway bigfeet got a case of the vapors over this cheap and trivial stunt. Tim took a dive on it, too, as we recall. The redoubtable Daily Howler remembers as well. Last night, though, he was determined to show that he could read stuff off an index card with the best of them.

His shillery came later. In a week when St. John McCain was being roasted over his lobbyist-laden past and when the FEC had started to look at the Straight Talker's cheap-ass lawyering around the campaign-finance statutes, Russert chose to spend useless minutes chasing Barack Obama around something Obama had said last year. Hillary was dead right there at the end, although she needs work on the snark, too. Nothing about China. Nothing about FISA or signing statements or the wreck of the constitutional order. Nothing about climate change. But plenty of time for a three-rail shot about Obama, his pastor, and Farrakhan, whose name I swear I have not heard twice in the past decade. (Marty Peretz hears it through the fillings in his teeth, but that's another matter.) That stuff was truly rank. What in the name of god does the relationship of Obama's pastor to Louis Farrakhan have to do with being president of the United States? John McCain's state co-chairman in Arizona, a sitting congresscritter, got himself indicted this week. Think that'll come up any time soon? Hell, if you wanted to tweak Obama about somebody with whom he had a more tangible connection, Tony Rezko went on trial YESTERDAY. No mention of it that I heard. The only reason to bring up Farrakhan was to play the Scary Negro card. At this point the lines between hackery and shillery form a perfect right angle and stretch on to infinity. And, by the way, it would help MSNBC's campaign to become the Scourge Of Public Bigots if it didn't keep putting Pat Buchanan on my TV screen every 11 seconds.

And all of this was coming from an alleged tough-guy who admitted to Bill Moyers that he got suckered on Iraq because NOBODY CALLED HIM. A guy who anyway said under oath that, if a government official calls him, he presumes the conversation is off the record. A guy of whom the vice-president's aide said under oath that his show was the administration's best platform for launching bullsh*t into the media stratosphere. That he will be praised for it anywhere may well be the most perfect museum specimen we have of a feckless and corrupted national press corps.

Oh, and the Bills still suck.


Why is Pierce so angry? Let's go to the transcript:

RUSSERT: Senator Obama, one of the things in a campaign is that you have to react to unexpected developments. On Sunday, the headline in your hometown paper, Chicago Tribune: "Louis Farrakhan Backs Obama for President at Nation of Islam Convention in Chicago." Do you accept the support of Louis Farrakhan?

OBAMA: You know, I have been very clear in my denunciation of Minister Farrakhan's anti-Semitic comments. I think that they are unacceptable and reprehensible. I did not solicit this support. He expressed pride in an African-American who seems to be bringing the country together. I obviously can't censor him, but it is not support that I sought. And we're not doing anything, I assure you, formally or informally with Minister Farrakhan.

RUSSERT: Do you reject his support?

OBAMA: Well, Tim, you know, I can't say to somebody that he can't say that he thinks I'm a good guy. [laughter] You know, I -- you know, I -- I have been very clear in my denunciations of him and his past statements, and I think that indicates to the American people what my stance is on those comments.

RUSSERT: The problem some voters may have is, as you know, Reverend Farrakhan called Judaism "gutter religion."

OBAMA: Tim, I think -- I am very familiar with his record, as are the American people. That's why I have consistently denounced it. This is not something new. This is something that -- I live in Chicago. He lives in Chicago. I've been very clear in terms of me believing that what he has said is reprehensible and inappropriate. And I have consistently distanced myself from him.

RUSSERT: The title of one of your books, Audacity of Hope, you acknowledge you got from a sermon from Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the head of the Trinity United Church. He said that Louis Farrakhan "epitomizes greatness." He said that he went to Libya in 1984 with Louis Farrakhan to visit with Moammar Gadhafi and that, when your political opponents found out about that, quote, "your Jewish support would dry up quicker than a snowball in Hell."

What do you do to assure Jewish-Americans that, whether it's Farrakhan's support or the activities of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, your pastor, you are consistent with issues regarding Israel and not in any way suggesting that Farrakhan epitomizes greatness?

OBAMA: Tim, I have some of the strongest support from the Jewish community in my hometown of Chicago and in this presidential campaign. And the reason is because I have been a stalwart friend of Israel's. I think they are one of our most important allies in the region, and I think that their security is sacrosanct, and that the United States is in a special relationship with them, as is true with my relationship with the Jewish community.

And the reason that I have such strong support is because they know that not only would I not tolerate anti-Semitism in any form, but also because of the fact that what I want to do is rebuild what I consider to be a historic relationship between the African-American community and the Jewish community.

You know, I would not be sitting here were it not for a whole host of Jewish Americans who supported the civil rights movement and helped to ensure that justice was served in the South. And that coalition has frayed over time around a whole host of issues, and part of my task in this process is making sure that those lines of communication and understanding are reopened.

But, you know, the reason that I have such strong support in the Jewish community and have historically -- it was true in my U.S. Senate campaign, and it's true in this presidency -- is because the people who know me best know that I consistently have not only befriended the Jewish community, not only have I been strong on Israel, but, more importantly, I've been willing to speak out even when it is not comfortable.

When I was -- just the last point I would make -- when I was giving -- had the honor of giving a sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in conjunction with Martin Luther King's birthday in front of a large African-American audience, I specifically spoke out against anti-Semitism within the African-American community. And that's what gives people confidence that I will continue to do that when I'm president of the United States.

WILLIAMS: Senator --

CLINTON: I just want to add something here, because I faced a similar situation when I ran for the Senate in 2000 in New York. And in New York, there are more than the two parties, Democratic and Republican. And one of the parties at that time, the Independence Party, was under the control of people who were anti-Semitic, anti-Israel. And I made it very clear that I did not want their support. I rejected it. I said that it would not be anything I would be comfortable with. And it looked as though I might pay a price for that. But I would not be associated with people who said such inflammatory and untrue charges against either Israel or Jewish people in our country.

And, you know, I was willing to take that stand, and, you know, fortunately the people of New York supported me and I won. But at the time, I thought it was more important to stand on principle and to reject the kind of conditions that went with support like that.

RUSSERT: Are you suggesting Senator Obama is not standing on principle?

CLINTON: No. I'm just saying that you asked specifically if he would reject it. And there's a difference between denouncing and rejecting. And I think when it comes to this sort of, you know, inflammatory -- I have no doubt that everything that Barack just said is absolutely sincere. But I just think, we've got to be even stronger. We cannot let anyone in any way say these things because of the implications that they have, which can be so far-reaching.

OBAMA: Tim, I have to say I don't see a difference between denouncing and rejecting. There's no formal offer of help from Minister Farrakhan that would involve me rejecting it. But if the word "reject" Senator Clinton feels is stronger than the word "denounce," then I'm happy to concede the point, and I would reject and denounce.

CLINTON: Good. Good. Excellent.

ArchPundit also has some useful things to say:

Timmeh took his cue from Richard Cohen in the Washington Post column:

Barack Obama is a member of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ. Its minister, and Obama's spiritual adviser, is the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. In 1982, the church launched Trumpet Newsmagazine; Wright's daughters serve as publisher and executive editor. Every year, the magazine makes awards in various categories. Last year, it gave the Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Trumpeter Award to a man it said "truly epitomized greatness." That man is Louis Farrakhan.

Except, Timmeh got the facts wrong on top of it. Wright didn't say Farrakhan epitomized greatness, that was a part of the Trumpet Magazine award to Farrakhan. Wright is the CEO of the magazine, but his daughter Jeri is the publisher. While those ties might be relevant, it's very different from Jeremiah Wright saying that. And, in fact, the magazine split off from the congregation in September of 2005.

The thing is, everyone is missing the point about how fucking stupid this line of questioning was. When was the last time Timmeh took on some right wing fundamentalists for being anti-semitic? So why isn't George Bush asked about every anti-semitic rant by LaHaye or Wildmon since by the transitive property Timmeh is invoking, Bush has close spiritual adivisors who work closely with them?

The Council on National Policy alone contains a whole host of anti-semitic right wing Christians who hobnob with the Tony Perkins and the Richard Lands and the Dobsons of the world, but that transitive connection would never be brought up would it? This isn't just a connection of someone who goes on a trip with or says something nice, it's a working group of conservative fundamentalists who welcome anti-semitism into their efforts to bring about a Christian government. Of course, the Bush administration has routinely played footsy with Wildmon, not just had a friend of his be nice to him on occasion.

This would never be an issue for a white candidate and shame on Timmeh for trying to do it to Obama. If Timmeh wants to be concerned about anti-semitism he should start asking the Mike Huckabee's of the world about their supporters who they actually work with to get elected.

And this from a reader at Talking Points Memo:

I think that breaking down Russert's Wright/Farrakhan questioning helps illuminate how truly bizarre it is:

1. The title of Obama's book, "The Audacity of Hope," came from a sermon delivered by Jeremiah Wright. Wright is Obama's pastor.

2. Wright is the "head" of United Trinity Church.

3. Wright said that Louis Farrakhan "epitomizes greatness."

4. Wright went with Farrakhan in 1984 to visit Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.

5. Farrakhan has said that Judaism is a "gutter religion."

6. Wright said that when Obama's political opponents found out about the Libya visit, Obama's Jewish support would dry up "faster than a snowball in Hell."

Russert's question is then "What do you do to assure Jewish Americans... you are consistent with issues regarding Israel and not in any way suggesting that Farrakhan epitomizes greatness."

The first question about Farrakhan-and Russert's insistence on mentioning Farrakhan's views regarding Judaism after Obama had already denounced Farrakhan's bigotry-was all foreplay leading up to this masterstroke in which Russert synthesizes the six discrete facts into a knockout punch of innuendo and guilt by association: perhaps Obama thinks that Louis Farrakhan, the man Obama explicitly denounced not one minute before, is the very epitome of greatness.

All of the stuff about going to Libya, Farrakhan's "gutter religion" comment, and Jewish supporting drying up like a snowball in hell-that was all totally unnecessary to reach the ultimate question, but wasn't it fun?

I forget where I found this, but someone else thought to raise the moment when Russert asked Obama to repudiate something Harry Belafonte said, even though the *only* connection between Obama and Belafonte is the color of their skin? And the only other person he asked about Belafonte: Colin Powell.

Here's some blog posts from the Belafonte thing:

The late, great Steve Gilliard

Michael Bérubé does a nice job with this as well, here:

Apparently an interesting point of political doctrine and liturgical procedure emerged late in tonight's debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and my readers are all abuzz about it! Let's go to the mailbag:

Dear Mister Answer Man: Tonight on TPM Election Central, I read a discussion of whether Barack Obama did enough to distance himself from Louis Farrakhan. The following is Greg Sargent's account, and I have a question about it:

But the inane question of the night award goes to this Russert inanity, which we just heard moments ago:

"Do you accept the support of Louis Farrakhan?"

Obama, unsurprisingly, denounced Farrakhan, and used the occasion to argue that there's yet another historic dimension to his candidacy:

"What I want to do is rebuild what I consider to be a historic relationship between the African-American community and the Jewish community."

Hillary, in her rejoinder, seems to suggest that Obama didn't go far enough:

"There's a difference between denouncing and rejecting. And I think that when it comes to this sort of inflammatory- I have no doubt that everything Barack just said is absolutely sincere. But I just think that we've got to be even stronger. We cannot let anyone in any way say these things, because of the implications that they have, which can be so far-reaching."

Obama's response: There isn't a difference between "reject" and "denounce," but if anyone thinks there is a difference, he rejects and denounces Farrakhan.

Mister Answer Man, Greg Sargent seems awfully flip about this. He seems to think that Obama is now completely off the hook, and that the question itself was "inane." I'm not so sure. Aren't the American people entitled to know whether Barack Obama, as a Muslim, approves of another Muslim who thinks Judaism is a "gutter religion," and shouldn't Obama reject him even more strongly by rejecting and denouncing him and then repudiating and disdaining him as well? - D. Schlussel, Michigan

Mister Answer Man replies: Thanks for your question, Ms. Schlussel. In one respect, I think you are misinformed: Barack Obama is a practicing Christian. However, you raise a good point when you ask if there's something more that Obama should have done. There is, in fact, a proper form for denouncing and rejecting Farrakhan; it is called renouncing Farrakhan. Impartial moderator Tim Russert was quite right to press Obama on this, and Hillary Clinton was quite right to suggest that Obama didn't execute his part properly tonight. For the record, this is how it's done:

Famously tough but fair questioner: Abrenuntiatis farrakhanae? [Do you renounce Farrakhan?]

Liberal black officeseeker: Abrenuntio.

Famously tough but fair questioner: Et omnibus operibus eius? [And all his works?]

Liberal black officeseeker: Abrenuntio.

Famously tough but fair questioner: Et omnibus pompis eius? [And all his pomps?]

Liberal black officeseeker: Abrenuntio.

Very well then. Next time, let's hope the Obama camp performs the ritual correctly. And here's another reader with a timely followup!

Dear Mister Answer Man: Gee, that question-and-answer thing you've cited above seems awfully ornate. And it would seem to pose quite a dilemma for America's black politicians! Tell me, is there a similar ritual for when conservative white officeseekers are endorsed by dangerous religious zealots who urge their followers to "Pray that additional vacancies occur within the Supreme Court" and to "Take authority over the schemes of Satan concerning the Supreme Court"? -G. Myrdal, Sweden

Mister Answer Man replies: Hell, no! What are you trying to do with this cheap, transparent kind of guilt-by-association? That's not the way America conducts a debate. You obviously don't know very much about this country, Mr. Myrdal (if that is your real name), and as far as I'm concerned you can just take your little "gotcha" race-baiting question right back to Swedenistan where it belongs.

Now isn't it interesting that Russert's strange, journalistically indefensible, morally objectionable comments do not merit even a mention anywhere in the MSM? (Today's Paper's noticed this too.) If you read the entire magnum opus that is The Note this morning, you won't find any mention of it at all. (Is this an MSM conspiracy of silence or just a blind spot? I have no idea.)

I also noticed that while there are 10 paragraphs about the debate on the front page of the Times today, not one of them has a word about the substance of what either candidate said about anything, which is par for the course of all MSM coverage. Then again, when they do address substance, we often see an unadmitted but unarguable ideology at work; one that is never so obvious as when the topic is trade. Here's The Note:

Another key point: "The protectionist tone of the Democratic presidential race is reaching new heights as senators Clinton and Obama vowed last night to withdraw America from the North American Free Trade Agreement if Mexico and Canada do not agree to renegotiate the terms of the pact," Josh Gerstein writes in the New York Sun.

See, if you question the efficacy of a given trade agreement that most people think is a failure, that makes you "protectionist." Never mind if the damn thing is doing anybody any good, a point that, of course, is not even addressed.

Also, were you wondering if the MSM did, in fact, hate Bill Clinton? Look at this language, via The Note:

"The long campaign has taken some of the fight out of the Big Dog," John M. Broder writes in The New York Times. "The growling and snapping Bill Clinton the nation saw before the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries has been muzzled and leashed."

"He is being kept as far from the news media as possible to prevent any more of the red-faced, finger-wagging tirades and freelance political commentary that polls say cost Hillary Rodham Clinton a lot of support ..."


The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America by Hugh Wilford:

In 1967, an exposé in Ramparts magazine revealed that the CIA was secretly funding and managing a number of seemingly private organizations, in an effort to counter Communist influence in America and around the world. In The Mighty Wurlitzer, Hugh Wilford, associate professor of history at Cal State-Long Beach, details the origins and ultimate effects of the CIA's secret program.

This is terrifically complicated topic and this book has received deserved accolades from all sides for the thoughtfulness and eloquence with which the author addresses it. Highly recommended. The Barnes & Noble page for the book, published by the Harvard University Press, is here.

How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now by James L. Kugel:

James L. Kugel, a Harvard Professor Emeritus who teaches a class on the bible that is one of the more popular undergraduate offerings there, is out with a book called How to Read the Bible. It argues that both traditional and modern interpretations of scripture can meet at a common point, and produce a deeper understanding of the text. The Bible is really meant to be read in groups. In and of itself, it not only makes little sense, it's not all that interesting-at least if you're not trained how to read it. But groups are not always available and you might want to improve your own understanding. The Barnes & Noble page for the book, published by Free Press, is here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Jonathan Polansky
Hometown: San Francisco

Thanks for the note about smoking movies. You may have seen MPAA press last May about "considering" smoking in its ratings. As it turned out, the MPAA has only slapped indie films and major studio films destined for video with "tobacco" labels, ignoring all but two wide-release movies - including Definitely, Maybe. And the labels won't reduce adolescent exposure anyway. Only an R-rating that will clear smoking out of youth-rated films, widely endorsed by leading U.S. health groups and WHO, can do that. Studios that control MPAA refuse -- so far.

Last Tuesday, New York State Commissioner of Health Richard F. Daines, MD, published open letters to the studios' parent companies, four of whom are based in NYC, saying, in effect, "Time's up, you have to stop promoting tobacco to kids." The department has also posted banner ads saying cigarettes "don't belong in PG-13 movies" on Variety's web site. It tried to buy space on for Sunday night, but owner Disney Company refused to run them. Pretty rich!

Name: Dan
Hometown: Des Moines, Iowa

Come on, Eric. We all know what a beating the label of "liberal" has taken in the last 20-30 years, and we all know that getting hammered with that label over and over and over again during the course of a campaign hurts a Democratic candidate.

So cut Obama some slack already, he's campaigning deepinthehearta, so would you really expect him to embrace the label of liberal?

Besides, I don't even think he's dismissing the liberal label. It sounds more to me like he's saying that these so-called liberal principles really aren't radical, as the right would have you believe.

Name: Jim Celer
Hometown: Omaha

I think Obama's comments reflect the Colbert line of a few years ago: "What if the facts have a liberal bias?" Why should attitudes such as wanting to live in a peaceful world, or taking care of each other, be considered the realm of a political faction? Concerned about moral decay? You're a conservative! Don't think children should be shot with their parents' handguns? You're a liberal! Obama's educating. Whether that's useful, or practical, is another discussion. But I believe that's what he's trying to do.

Name: Piet Martens
Hometown: Belmont, MA


What Obama was doing in his speech is accepting (for the moment), the widely held perception "liberal = bad", and then pointing out, what is so bad about health care for all, and taking care of veterans? In a speech, or even in a dinner conversation, what he is saying makes perfect sense, only when written is it obvious that the construction does not make logical sense.

I read your blog every day with great pleasure, btw.

Name: Davis X. Machina

The 'okie-doke' is the opposite of something being O.K.

It's a scam, a con, and has so signified among African-Americans for near a hundred years.

Name: carl
Hometown: muscle shoals

Thanks, Eric, for finally posting something on Don Siegelman's story. When everyone was running on about the U.S. attorneys that were dismissed by the Bush Justice Department, not many considered the obverse of the coin: what is required to KEEP your job as U.S. attorney under the Bush administration. One who did ask was Scott Horton. CBS is Johnny-come-lately to the story; for the entire thread, go here.

It's long but Horton has been following this from before Siegelman's sentencing.

Name: T. Andress
Hometown: Alabama

"60 Minutes Done A Great Job." The Bush's elite group of corrupt GOP-ers are scared to death that Don Siegelman may be on the streets before the election. Slick Bob is so nervous that he is combing his hair and spraying his mouth and under arms every five minutes for two reasons: He's hoping that the next president will be John McCain a Republican and that Riley will be asked to be McCain's running mate. If the next president is a Democrat he/she will probally appoint new U.S. Attorneys in Alabama. Riley along with most of the top GOP operatives could get Federal charges filed against them for taking millions of dollars from Michael Scanlon and Jack Abramoff. This money was used to defeat Siegelman's lottery and to fund Riley's two campaigns for governor.

Name: Ken
Hometown: Cherry Hill, NJ

More fuzzy math from the Bushies: If, at the start of a short-term, temporary "surge" strategy, you have 132,000 troops in Iraq, how many will you have stationed there 18 months later, long after the surge is complete. The answer, of course, is 140,000.

Still, the surge was a complete success for the Bush administration in that it accomplished everything they wanted. Specifically, it ensured that this complete and utter disaster will be dumped in the lap of the next president. Quite frankly, it has long been my personal opinion that the reason for the vociferous attacks against John McCain by the conservative attack dogs is not because he is "not conservative enough," but rather because they truly want a Dem to be the next president. Lets face it, the next president is going to inherit such a laundry list of problems (most of which are not only unfixable in the confines of a four-year presidential term but are likely to get worse before they get better) that the next president, no matter who it is, will almost certainly be labeled a failure. Consequently, in two years, the Republicans can use it to regain control of Congress, and, in four years, they can use it both solidify their hold on congress while putting another Bush clone to-be-named in the presidency and finish destroying this nation.

Thanks again, Ralph.

Name: Don Schneier
Hometown: Springfield, MA

The presence of Nader on a ballot means nothing unless someone votes for him, and a populist has no grounds for complaining about someone freely choosing him. So, the principled, and effective, way for Obama to deal with Nader is not to villify, psychoanalyze, or stifle him, but to make sure that a voter has every reason to prefer Obama to Nader.

Name: Chuck
Hometown: Kansas City

Dr. A, here in Kansas, we have an incumbent senator, Pat Roberts, who is running for a third term in November. Some folks may remember him as the Intelligence Committee Chair who stalled releasing the report on prewar Iraq intel until after the 2004 presidential election. He is also one of only nine senators to vote against the much ballyhooed McCain sponsored torture bill, which was signed into law by Bush and then relegated to the pile of other legislation the current administration refuses to abide by, by virtue of their unitary executive signing statement theory.

Imagine my surprise that the Dems currently have no candidate running against Roberts - there was one that had filed and announced, but he dropped out last week. He was not someone that had held public office with the accompanying name recognition and fundraising advantages.

It appears voters here will not have a viable option to Mr. Roberts in November, even though he has not only voted in lockstep with the Bush administration and done their bidding as described above, a 72 year old that has spent the last 40 years in DC as either legislative aide, congressman, or senator. Is it just me, or are the Dems missing an opportunity here? Dr. Dean, are you out there? Somebody, anybody?

Name: Peter
Hometown: London Ontario

Thanks for the tip on the new Horace Silver. You missed an opportunity to point out the greatness of tenorman Junior Cook, who also plays on that album. Cook was a gritty, soulful player and an original voice who never got the recognition he deserved. Jazz aficionados are advised to pick up anything of his that they can find, especially "Pressure Cooker."

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