Both Russert and Brian Williams seem to be attempting to provoke the maximum level of internecine bickering, often, merely to provoke nastiness, harping on negative things each has said about the other during previous campaign appearances. They started right back on this tack after the break, but both candidates deflected it nicely with good humor and mutual kindness, and Obama turned it nicely against the current administration.
(Aside: I always find myself calling Hillary Clinton "Hillary" and Barack Obama "Obama." This is not meant as any disrespect to Hillary via untoward familiarity, and somehow "Clinton" to me means her husband. And I simply don't think "Barack" sounds or looks right standing alone. In other words, don't read anything into it. I am genuinely undecided between the two candidates and will wholeheartedly support whichever one wins our nomination.)
Hillary was right to point out that currently privileged industries and classes -- the "special interests" -- will not willingly forfeit or even compromise their privileges. Happily, Obama agreed.
Russert then played gotcha with Obama on campaign financing. Obama should answer straight here and say that when he stated his desire to stick to public financing he had no idea his fundraising would be so successful, and that he is not so stupid as to forego such an advantage now that it is on his side. He should then go on to advocate exclusive and total public financing of Federal campaigns and make it a plank in his platform. To liken it, as Russert did, to John McCain's acceptance of public financing and then ignoring the
limits during the Ohio primary was blatantly unfair. Obama never accepted public financing during this campaign, while McCain is now clearly and unequivocally breaking the law even despite the fact that he doesn't need to, having clinched the Republican nomination already. What does he think he needs the money for?
And then Russert, behaving not like a moderator in a debate but like a prosecutor cross-examining a hostile witness, turned on Hillary about her tax returns. He really should try to learn his place. And then he tried to brand Obama with Louis Farrakhan because Farrakhan endorsed his candidacy. Like somehow Obama can control Farrakhan. What a real slimeball Russert can be! To her great credit, Hillary chimed in to support Obama against the clear implication from Russert against Obama of antisemitism. You want antisemitism, go talk to St. Ralph [Nader]!
....Now Brian Williams is accusing Obama of being a liberal! Great gobs o' goo! Stop the presses! I really wish he was a liberal. And, as icing on the cake, he quoted a rating by the National Journal. To them, Joe McCarthy was a liberal.
Now I am really bored. What on earth does Vladimir Putin's hand-picking his successor have to do with the race for our nomination? Why is Russert harping on this? And why aren't either Hillary or Obama pointing out that the risks of Russian adventurism are much higher when our military is consumed by Iraq and Afghanistan rather than being reserved for needs more closely related to American security and the security of our allies?
When asked what vote he most regretted, I liked Obama's mention of his failure to oppose congressional intervention in that ridiculous Terry Schiavo case. I like someone who can recognize and admit mistakes, because the presidency itself is a brutal learning process.
Brian Williams then took a last stab at provoking a fight, this time frontally, asking each to critique the other. Obama didn't take the bait and fell to platitudes about Hillary's worthiness and his desire to bring us together (as I make the gesture of pushing two fingers in and out of my throat). Hillary, oddly, spoke about her campaign in the past tense. Now, what am I to make of that? Even the tone of her voice was one of resignation. It almost sounded like a concession.
Hmmm. Both of these fine people are so much superior to their opponents that I feel really bad about what is going to happen to whichever one prevails for our nomination. The Republicans will be far more savage even than they were the last time or the time before, because they have to be in order to have any chance to win. If you're dishonest, when you don't have the players, you fall to cheating.