Remembering Tim Russert

Ten years ago today we lost a truly important voice in our democracy.

Tim Russert set a standard for news reporting and interviewing that led all of Washington to know that his program “Meet The Press” was a real chance for the public to gain insight into the guest on Sunday morning.  Russert would be polite and allow for full and wide ranging answers, but he also understood the role that he held, and the responsibility that he owed to his audience.  As such, there was never much wiggle room for a politician that failed to understand that questions deserved answers.  And in the end even those who were feeling piqued by the questions knew that Russert was playing fair as a journalist.

That is why so many in both Washington, and around the country mourned his passing.  He knew that the democratic process was so important that his role as a journalist had to be fair and even-handed.  It was his role to help shine light on the news-makers and issues that otherwise would perhaps never face real scrutiny during that week.  His program often made for news stories in the New York Times and questions for the White House Secretary to answer on Mondays.  That was one reason his show was essential to watch.

More Voter ID Woes For Wisconsin Republicans

When one first seeks to deceive….

Readers know how I feel about the purely partisan attempt by conservative Republicans to undermine voting rights in this state and around the nation.  As study after study has shown, there is virtually no voter fraud anywhere in the country. The most comprehensive investigation to date found that out of one billion votes cast in all American elections between 2000 and 2014, there were 31 possible cases of impersonation fraud. Other violations — like absentee ballot fraud, multiple voting and registration fraud — are also exceedingly rare.

The only reason to play with voting rights is to exclude minorities and lower economic positioned people from casting a vote. Now more shenanigans have come to light from the partisans in Wisconsin who want to game out election process.

Shame on them!! Shame on Governor Scott Walker for undermining the political process in our state!

The state of Wisconsin must investigate reports that Division of Motor Vehicles employees gave false information to a person who applied for an ID to vote in the upcoming election, a federal judge ordered Friday.

Judge James Peterson’s order followed a report this week by The Nation that cast doubt on whether Gov. Scott Walker’s administration is following a judge’s instructions in a court challenge to the state’s voter ID law.

The Nation report focused on audio recordings of exchanges with employees at a Madison DMV office in which they appear to thwart efforts by a homeless man, Zack Moore, to obtain an ID to vote in November. 

Peterson, who is presiding over one of two pending legal challenges to Wisconsin’s voter ID law, ruled in July that the state must promptly provide voter ID credentials, valid in the November election, to people who request them — even if they lack some of the underlying documents needed to obtain an ID.

In his order Friday, Peterson said The Nation report and another by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel raise the question of whether the DMV is following his instructions.”These reports, if true, demonstrate that the state is not in compliance with this court’s injunction order” from July, Peterson wrote.

Peterson’s order instructs the state to “investigate these allegations and provide a report to the court by Oct. 7.”

“Meet The Press” Misses The Mark

Meet-the-Press

Not for the first time do I find myself wondering what happened to the powerful institution that once was the epitome of Sunday morning news programs.   For decades NBC’s Meet The Press set the tone and style for what a serious open-ended interview show should look like as it dissected important events of the week with a top newsmaker.  The much respected Tim Russert would spend the first half hour with one guest exploring in great detail the complexities of some domestic or foreign policy concern.  Russert obviously had spent considerable time preparing for the interview as he had various avenues of approach to ferreting out complete answers from newsmakers.

russert

Now far too often the show opens with host David Gregory throwing questions to a panel of talking heads, who while all talented and informative, are not the reason most people tune into Meet The Press.  Viewers want to see the hard-hitting interviews and walk away more engaged on this or that topic.

But that is no longer the case with this long-running show as it is most apparent they are being coached by consultants who have ‘informed’ them that shorter segments and numerous topics per show is more in tune with the viewing habits of Americans.  As a result of such changes to this show it is hard to distinguish this hour on Sunday morning to any other during the weekday on any all-news cable station.  That is one sad statement to have to post on this blog.

The very reason Meet The Press or Face or The Nation are special is the time that can be allotted to mining down in an interview to get to what matters for the audience that tunes in to watch.  And learn.   I still think there is a unique demographic that makes a point to getting up and watching these broadcasts on Sunday morning, and they can not be pleased with the changes at NBC.

I am not suggesting that Gregory is solely to blame for the downward tone of the show.  But I do suggest that Russert would never allow what passes now over the air to have happened on his watch.  There are clearly forces at work by some to make Meet The Press stronger in the ratings.  But if that is the intent they are losing the soul of the show, and the very reason it became an institution in the first place.

How I Miss Tim Russert On “Meet The Press”

Not for the first time did I sit on a Sunday morning missing Tim Russert while watching Meet The Press.

Not for the first time did the bulk of the show feature pundits of various stripes analyzing the political landscape and offering spin for the various parties as opposed to a main guest who was grilled for answers.

When Tim Russert was alive and in charge of the must-see Sunday show it was filled with substance, and was known as the toughest interview on national television.

During the political season, such as the one we are now witnessing, Russert would have the candidates from the heavy-hitting senate races for interviews, and even debates.  There was heft for his show, and always the Monday paper would have a comment from one of those interviewed with a snippet that made for a larger-themed news article.

Can anyone image that being the case from the roundtable type appearance that made for this morning’s broadcast?

I understand that things never stay the same, and broadcasters and journalists come and go.

But why do the changes always seems to ratchet downwards instead of upwards?

God, I miss Tim Russert.

New “Meet The Press” Anchor To Be Announced By December 7

We still all wish there was no need to have a new full-time host for Sunday morning’s famed “Meet The Press”.  If only it could be like it once was.  Tim Russert is still very much missed.

But there is a list of names that I find perfect for the role of his replacement, and three of them are among my favorites on television today.  The announcement of a new host will  be made by December 7th.

Barring a last-minute surprise, network insiders and television news observers expect the new moderator — or moderators — will be drawn from a short list of candidates that include NBC chief White House correspondent David Gregory, PBS anchor Gwen Ifill, NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell and NBC political director Chuck Todd.

I love Gwen Ifill and once hoped that she could have been lured to CBS to fill the anchor role of Dan Rather.  She is steeped in Washington knowledge, and the political process.   Andrea Mitchell has a warm television presence with a keen mind regarding international affairs.  Chuck Todd is a walking storehouse of political acumen, and is perhaps the one that best resembles the mind of Tim Russert.  David Gregory is great at asking questions and demanding an answer, but I wonder if he is the ‘fit’ for the Sunday role as host.

This long serving public affairs program is one that has a proud tradition in our political and journalistic world.  The selection has to be the correct one.

2008 Presidential Predictions

We have finally arrived at the point in the election cycle where we can vote!  And the campaign commercials can end!  HOORAY!

I have my predictions broken down into three sections.  First is a brief analysis of the lay of the land, second the states are listed for each presidential candidate along with the electoral vote tally and projected final popular vote percentage, and third is a series of Congressional and Senate elections listed by state that I have been following, and wish to weigh in on.

First however, I want to post these predictions in honor of Tim Russert.  Mr. Russert loved the political campaign season, and was having a delightful time with the primaries that he covered earlier this year.  I know that he would have much enjoyed this summer’s events between the candidates, the intensity of the fall race, and been waiting anxiously for Election Day.  Tim’s sudden death earlier this year cast sadness over the political season.  It may seem corny to some, but in this small way his memory lives on here with those who love the excitement that a rough and tumble political season can produce.  Just like he did.  So this one is for Tim Russert.

Part One-The Political Landscape

The trends are clearly in Barack Obama’s direction, though the final results in many states are hard to decipher from the polling.  As I file this post for the weekend before the election I expect this race to tighten in the last 72 hours. The fact that this election was more about Obama needing to sell himself to the electorate, than the voters deciding who created the mess that caused our national distress and voting accordingly, is one reason that the polls are harder to read.  In addition is the unknown number of voters that will turn out, and to what degree the Obama GOTV effort will produce an outcome that might shake the rafters.  Also we need to be mindful of how many Republicans might feel so dispirited they may decide to not vote.  The biggest unknown is the degree to which racial bigotry will play a role.   (I might add with a wry smile that the bigotry from the GOP over the past years regarding Hispanics and immigration is one reason that the West will deliver for the Democrats,)

The winner of the White House will create a historic chapter for our nation.   However, having said that, I have a more conservative view of the lay of the land.  I have never thought that the Obama campaign was going to produce a landslide.  I still know our country is bitterly divided along cultural lines.  Two months ago, if pressed, I would have predicted that John McCain would have won the White House.   But after Sarah Palin, an economic crisis, and perhaps the worst run campaign in recent memory, John McCain has no chance to win.  We need to be mindful that no candidate, like McCain that is behind this far in the national polls, and this late in the campaign has come back to win.  Granted there have been come-from-behind victories, but they didn’t come back this far so late in the game.  In addition early voting has made comebacks harder and diminishes the impact of the kind of late-breaking development that might have worked for McCain.  I have read reports that suggest 1/3 of all votes might have been cast by early ballot.

So while Obama wins, I do not see an Electoral College tsunami.  I know that many are forecasting such an event, and if it happens, I will be elated.  But my mind and gut is telling me that a more conservative view is the correct one.  Either way, America will elect Barack Obama as the next President of the United States.

I am watching three separate races in three Eastern States where polls will close early, and as a result I think much will be known about the mood of the electorate early on Election Night.

First, in Virginia I will be watching to see if Barack Obama wins.  If he does, the night will be far shorter for John McCain, though it will feel like a very long night for the Republican Party from sea to sea.   It might also tell us that there is more than a mere ‘win’ coming for Obama nationally as the night continues.  A Virginia win for Obama might mean a huge victory of landslide proportions when all the votes are counted.  While I am predicting Virginia goes to Obama, I do not see the big sweep that so many are predicting.  In addition, if there is something happening for Obama in ‘red’ states, this means that McCain needs to pick up all the swing states.  Much might be told in Virginia.

Second, in North Carolina I will be watching the Senate race between Republican incumbent Elizabeth Dole, and her Democratic challenger Kay Hagan.  This race is indicative of whether Democrats will win enough seats to be in the zone of a 60-seat majority.  A defeat of Dole in North Carolina would aid the Democrats by putting them on the road to getting near the goal of 60 seats.

Third, the 4th Congressional District in Connecticut will be a barometer early in the evening to see if the House gains by Democrats will be closer to 15 or to 25.  Incumbent GOP Christopher Shays is one of the last of his party to serve in Congress from the Northeast.  Jim Himes, the Democratic opponent is close to undoing the 12-term Shays.  I hasten to add there have been others who came close in past elections.  Still, this race early in the night will tell us a great deal about the new Congress.

Part Two-And The Winner Is…

Barack Obama 291 Electoral Votes- 53.5% of the popular vote.

California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin

John McCain 247 Electoral Votes

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah,  West Virginia, Wyoming

Part Three-Congressional Races

Democrats will have 57 U.S. Senate seats at the end of the night, and a gain of 22 House seats.

California

Placing the right of the electorate to vote on the civil rights for another group in this nation has been discussed at length on this blog.  If there is anything that can be labeled ‘un-American’, it is the desire of some to continually seek ways to undermine gay rights.  The latest such attempt, and a very dangerous one, is Prop 8 that seeks to undermine the California Supreme Court decision to allow for gay marriage.  There is no good way to poll on these measures, so no one knows what might happen.  I fear that many African-Americans who will turn out in large numbers for Obama, will allow cultural differences to come ahead of working for the civil rights of gay Americans. Much as I hate to predict it, Prop 8 will pass. 

Connecticut

4th CD-I suspect that even in this year where anything labeled GOP suffers, that Christopher Shays did just enough to distance himself from the tainted conservatives in his party to stay in office….again.  I will admit this is one tough politician and so he at least deserves a tip of the hat for dexterity under fire, which he dealt with this year.  If he were to lose that would be an indicator of the mood of the nation, and it would mean a very good night for House Democrats.

Georgia

While I think Senator Saxby Chambliss, the Republican incumbent wins, it has been a race of twists and turns.  Democratic challenger Jim Martin has turned a large pro-Obama movement his way, and helped to split the conservatives who are angry with Chambliss over the bailout vote.  It has been real interesting to see the Big Business Republicans fight the populist conservatives over the bailout measure.  Libertarian Allen Buckley is making this race even more interesting as election rules could force a run-off if one of the contenders does not make it over 50%.  Just for pure theatre this race will be fun to watch as the hours roll by on Election Night.

Kentucky

Senator Mitch McConnell should not have even needed to be talked about as a possible ‘leaning’ Republican seat.  As the Republican Minority Leader he should have never had a problem in his state.  But after the GOP treatment of South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle in 2006, this is tit-for tat.  In addition, this race has intrigued me all season, as McConnell seems to have a closeted view of the world.  The rumors about why he was discharged from the military during the Vietnam era after only four months of service has made for lots of speculation.  I think McConnell wins this election, but the questions about his ‘lifestyle’ (isn’t that the GOP way of speaking) will not go away.

Minnesota

I have long thought that the second most vulnerable U.S. Senator was Norm Coleman, (Dole being the first) and I still feel that way.  Though one of his opponents, Al Franken, has at times run a sloppy campaign, and made some, (lets be honest), stupid mistakes, I think the outrage over the condition of the nation, along with the Obama vote, will make the Democratic challenger the winner.  Dean Barkley from the Independence Party is drawing double-digit support in the polls, and while this confuses the race, I think the economic woes carry Franken to victory. As I write there are some poll results that show Coleman to be faring a bit better, but I think the cement hardened on this race a couple weeks ago.  Franken wins.

Nevada

A rematch that has been lots of fun to watch between Jill Derby the Democratic candidate, and the Republican incumbent Dean Heller, will produce a different outcome than in 2006.  Derby wins, and the Obama coat-tails will be the reason why.  John Kerry lost Nevada by 21,000 votes, and Obama has registered 5 times that many new energetic voters.  More younger voters live here and plan to vote, and fewer over 65-age voters make up the district.  Welcome to Congress, Jill!

Ohio

2nd CD-If there is any common sense in the 2nd CD Jean Schmidt will be retired this evening.  Long on my radar after her most uncivilized speech on the House floor against a fellow member, there is only one place she deserves to be.  On the outside looking in.  The name-calling incident was a one-minute House speech by Schmidt that put the House of Representatives in an uproar. In that minute, Schmidt criticized Congressman John Murtha, and used the term “coward,” saying s “…send Congressman Murtha a message, that cowards cut and run, Marines never do.”  Schmidt has two opponents in her race, Democrat Victoria Wulsin and Independent David Krikorian. In spite of more African-American votes due to Obama, I am predicting that Schmidt will win, but still hope that sanity might prevail.  Her type of behavior in a legislative body is unforgivable.

Wisconsin

8th CD-This is the only real congressional race in the state, and I think it will be a long night counting.  While Republicans are not popular nationwide, John Gard was not in Washington these past two years, and I think that makes all the difference.  Northeast Wisconsin is very conservative, and even a strong Obama vote will be hard pressed to save incumbent Democrat Steve Kagen.  The CD might elect a Democrat, but they have a hard time sending one back for a second term.  Only Democrat Robert Cornell won re-election.  Kagen is smarter, but Gard wins.  The district will be the loser in the long run.

 

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Who Will Replace Tim Russert On “Meet The Press”?

Even though the journalism world, as well as the political one, is still reeling from the untimely death of Tim Russert, the fact is the program he hosted, “Meet The Press”, must go on.  Someone has to replace Russert, though it will be impossible to fill his shoes.

Mr. Russert was not only the moderator of “Meet the Press,” television’s most successful political talk show, he was also the chief of NBC’s Washington bureau, responsible for the hiring of staff members and directing its operations. More significantly, he was NBC’s public face on politics, appearing regularly on the network’s full range of programs, including the “Today” show, NBC’s “Nightly News,” and on its cable news channel MSNBC.

“It’s going to take four or five people to replace Tim,” said Bob Schieffer, Mr. Russert’s competitor for two decades on CBS’s Sunday program, “Face the Nation,” in a telephone interview from a barge in the Burgundy region of France, where he was vacationing.

“They’ve got to find a moderator for ‘Meet the Press.’ They’ve got to find a manager for that bureau. They’ve got to find someone who understands as much about politics as Tim does and there aren’t many people who do. They’ve got to find someone who is willing to get up in the morning and go on the ‘Today’ show and do the ‘Nightly News’ and then stay up late to go on MSNBC.”

Jeff Zucker, the president of NBC Universal, the parent company of NBC News, said the network was well aware of the issues it faced going into a pivotal presidential election.

“Nobody should even think about replacing Tim Russert,” he said in a telephone interview on Sunday. “What someone will need to do is find the next way to do ‘Meet the Press’ and provide political analysis. Anybody who thinks they can replace Tim Russert is kidding themselves.”

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Tim Russert’s son, Luke, To Appear On ‘Today’ Program Monday

Tim Russert’s son, Luke, is scheduled to appear on NBC’s ‘Today’ show program Monday morning (sometime between 7 and 7:30 a.m.) to discuss his father’s passing

You’ll recall that Luke vacationed in Italy with his father and mother (Vanity Fair writer Maureen Orth) just days before Tim’s death from a heart attack Friday. The vacation was, in part, a celebration of Luke’s graduation from Boston College.

As much of the coverage of Russert’s passing and legacy has indicated, Luke and his father shared a close and treasured father-son relationship.