Saturday, February 07, 2004

Breakfast With Bush
You gotta wonder if Tim Russert has considered that fate of the republic rests with him. He could, by asking some perfectly reasonable (albeit tough) questions of Bush on Meet the Press tomorrow, expose him, expose the charade of the tax cuts, the "Mission Accomplished" dress-up party, his hazy National Guard record, and his whoring for the wealthy. Russert could also, by pitching Diane-Sawyeresque softballs, offer him political cover for all of these charades, make him look like a cross between Abraham Lincoln and Julius Caesar, and ensure that no opponent not named George Washington could come close to him in November.

My guess is that when the interview is over, Bush will still be standing. Russert prides himself on being a tough interviewer, but at least four factors militate against his taking Bush down. First, he fronted points for the Bush campaign during his famous interview with Howard Dean last summer, taking several of his questions straight from GOP talking points. Second, he will not want to be perceived as biased against Bush, and in the current climate anything critical of Bush is seen as biased. Third (or maybe this is point 2B), he will not want to bring the wrath of the right-wing disapproval machine down on himself and NBC like CBS did with the Reagan miniseries. Fourth, NBC is owned by General Electric, a corporation that will most likely do better under Bush than it would under any other president.

Russert will certainly get some licks in--enough so that Bush supporters will be upset with him--but he will also go easy enough so that he'll appear, as another network likes to put it, "fair and balanced," thus displeasing those of us who are dying to see the empty suit imploded. Likely end result--lots of news for a traditionally slow news day, but politically, a push. If Karl Rove thought there was a chance of terminal damage to Bush's electoral prospects, his man would be avoiding this like the Boston gay pride parade. I suppose there's a chance that Rove is feeling so fat and sassy that he carelessly thinks Bush can survive anything--and given the way the media has written free pass after free pass for the man since Inauguration Day, there's evidence he could be right--but I wouldn't bet the house on it.

So in the morning, mix up the bloody marys and make the omelets and settle in for Bush vs. Russert, the biggest spectacle since the Super Bowl. (Insert your own boob joke here.) You never know--maybe Russert will grasp the stakes, and the interview could end up a defining moment for the rest of Bush's term, whether it's 11 months or five years.

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