In his Weekly Standard column, Hugh Hewitt writes:
THE SECOND SUBJECT for mulling is John Kerry’s extraordinary interview with Tim Russert last Sunday. There’s a lot to absorb here, including Kerry’s assertion that he did indeed run guns and CIA men into Cambodia on secret missions–and to aid the Khmer Rouge no less!
What is really remarkable is not Kerry’s whoppers–he couldn’t have meant the Khmer Rouge, right?–or his almost certain not-to-be-fulfilled pledge to sign the form 180. It is the set of questions Tim Russert posed.
Russert is generally regarded as the toughest interview in television, and he did bleed Kerry a bit during the campaign; afterwards Kerry never again came close to Russert’s set before November 2.
But if the questions posed by Russert on January 30, 2005–on Kerry’s fantasy life in Cambodia, on the sequestered records, etc.–were legitimate and useful inquiries after the votes have been cast, why then did no one pose them to candidate Kerry when they might have made a difference in the election? The blogosphere and the center-right media were full of such demands from August 1 forward, but not a single reporter from mainstream media bothered to pose even one of the Russert questions prior to the vote.
Why was that?
If the country’s most respected television journalist asks a series of questions after the election that no one asked during the contest, doesn’t that tell us all we need to know about the mainstream media’s coverage of Kerry? Doesn’t that conclusively answer the question of whether the debate moderators really came to the stage prepared to ask the questions that mattered most?
But we knew that, didn’t we? Tim Russert just provided the proof.
The pathetic effort to avoid posing tough questions to Kerry (and by contrast the Mapes-like fanaticism against Bush) highlights the almost lunatic imbalance of ideologies within mainstream media. Tim Russert may have taken aim at Kerry’s Walter Mittyisms, but he hit his journalistic colleagues instead.
In a sense, the way that the press acted in 2004 is a carryover from Hillary Clinton’s 2000 campaign for the Senate. Before she decided to run, every pundit said, “wait ’til the press gets a hold of her! She’ll whither under the pressure from all the tough questions about her past and her lust for even more power beyond the Senate.”
Never happened. Hillary and the New York press was a love story straight out of Erich Segal. They never layed on a glove on her–never even tried–to the point that Hillary seemed genuinely surprised when Rick Lazio, her erstwhile opponent, tried to attack her positions during the debates.
Hillary Clinton’s election was a cakewalk in 2000, and John Kerry and the press no doubt felt that 2004 should have much the same for him as well. (There was a headline from an Australia’s The Age back in August that summed the year up perfectly, “Anti-Kerry ad mars presidential campaign“–as if the job was Kerry’s merely for the asking.)
Fortunately, the Blogosphere and the Internet’s ability to help the Swift Boat Vets get their message out interceded. It will be interesting to see how the Blogosphere performs in three years–particularly if 2008 is an attempt at filming Hillary: The Sequel.