Alas, we do not live in some Platonic world of Forms, but in a country ravaged, by the time of next year's election, of nearly eight years of Republican rule in the Executive Branch, and 12 years of Republican control and 2 years of Republican dominance in the Legislative Branch. I believe that we have a long way to go before we can indulge our preference for the best of all possible worlds, and need to be honest about the world we live in right now. The dollar is collapsing. The economy drags itself along, somehow. Our military is broken as an effective deterrent, by our on-going mindless occupation of Iraq. Our diplomatic credibility evaporated long ago. Our physical infrastructure is crumbling (and no, I am not just referring to one bridge in the Twin Cities). Our political infrastructure is warped beyond the ability to function properly.
Worst of all, our Constitution is in tatters. We are actually discussing torture as a part of our national policy. We have ended habeas corpus, overturning nearly 800 years of Anglo-American legal history for no benefit whatsoever. Whether it is the Department of Justice, the EPA, or even the harmless NIH - there isn't an Executive Branch agency that isn't infected by this Republican virus of partisanship, insipid support for whatever nonsense they insist is true, and an erosion of standards of practice and conduct that once made these agencies models for the world.
All this is by way of preface. This is the context in which the up-coming Presidential election is occurring. One would think that those journalists in a position to do so, would conduct themselves professionally, with all the decorum and seriousness attached to covering an election of such importance. One would think that, wouldn't one.
No candidate has ever been savaged by moderators as Clinton was savaged on Tuesday (details below); nothing even remotely resembling that debate has ever been staged.
Has there ever been a debate where one candidate’s character was hammered this way? In the evening’s opening question, the pattern was clearly established. Obama was invited by Williams to bang away. Please kill the pig, Williams said:
QUESTION 1, WILLIAMS (10/30/07): Senator Obama, we’ll begin with you. You gave an interview to the New York Times, over the weekend, pledging in it to be more aggressive, to be tougher in your campaign against your chief rival for the nomination, the leader among Democrats so far, Senator Clinton, who is here next to you tonight. To that end, Senator, you said that Senator Clinton was trying to sound Republican, trying to vote Republican on national security issues. And that was, quote, “bad for the country and ultimately bad for the Democrats.” That is a strong charge, as you’re aware. Specifically, what are the issues where you, Senator Obama, and Senator Clinton have differed, where you think she has sounded or voted like a Republican?
It isn't just Somerby. John Amato also noticed the circular firing squad around Sen. Clinton.
I was wondering when Russert would ask her if she killed Vince Foster. The hostility directed at her was pretty ridiculous. Disagree with her all you want and I certainly do, but Russert had a plan in mind and carried it out.(emphasis added)
Taylor Marsh is another who thinks that Russert and the rest of the boy-man crowd was a tad rough on New York's junior Senator, with Russert being equal parts unprofessional and outright dishonest.
[L]ast night's boy brawl showed more about Clinton than anyone is willing to say. She can take anything dished out at her. The innuendos didn't stop her. The attacks didn't phase her publicly, though at one point I thought she was going to really come out and call it what it was, nothing short of a two-sided attack, with Clinton the target, including from "moderator" Tim Russert who had no business taking sides.
About one question in particular - not about Sen. Clinton, but about her husband and his position on releasing documents to the National Archives from his Presidency - Marsh catches Russert in a falsehood. First, the exchange (via the transcripts from The New York Times:
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, I'd like to follow up because, in terms of your experience as first lady, in order to give the American people an opportunity to make a judgment about your experience, would you allow the National Archives to release the documents about your communications with the president, the advice you gave, because, as you well know, President Clinton has asked the National Archives not to do anything until 2012?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, actually, Tim, the Archives is moving as rapidly as the Archives moves. There's about 20 million pieces of paper there and they are moving, and they are releasing as they do their process. And I am fully in favor of that.
Now, all of the records, as far as I know, about what we did with health care, those are already available. Others are becoming available. And I think that, you know, the Archives will continue to move as rapidly as the circumstances and processes demand.
MR. RUSSERT: But there was a letter written by President Clinton specifically asking that any communication between you and the president not be made available to the public until 2012. Would you lift that ban?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, that's not my decision to make. And I don't believe that any president or first lady has. But certainly we'll move as quickly as our circumstances and the processes of the National Archives permits.
Now, here is Marsh's takedown of Russert:
Once documents start being produced by a president, something has to be decided about what to do with them in case something happens to the president. I was told it was standard for presidents to choose the 12 year maximum to hold the documents, which are put in categories like national security, senior administration, secret, etc. The highest level documents often stay secret, and with regards to Bill Clinton specifically, are then run by Bruce Lindsay to decide whether to make them public. What Russert didn't bother to add at the time of his document waving drama, was that right after Bill Clinton left the presidency he asked that his documents be released immediately. But after George W. Bush came into office, he decided that presidential papers would be kept secret indefinitely, something Bill Clinton openly fought against, including opposing Bush on the 12 year secrecy procedure, but especially on the new indefinite stand. So back and forth the conversation went, with Bush pushing back on Bill Clinton.
Russert played a card that was not only disingenuous and meant to bring in Bill Clinton into a debate where Hillary Clinton is running for president, but did so using innuendos and outright falsehoods, according to any objective player.
I shall close with Marsh's words on the "moderator":
It's time to ask what Tim Russert's behavior reveals. When you compare his questions to Clinton with the ones that were asked of The Boys, there is only one conclusion to draw. Tim Russert used his position as moderator to single out Clinton in a fashion that was inappropriate, highly targeted, unfair, especially when you consider the numbers of questions to Clinton and their negative tone, opposed to Obama's cutesy questions.
Russert didn't moderate the debate. He became part of the proceedings, coloring the questioning and supporting the attack dog theme, the brawl theme that the hack pack press wanted. Because if Clinton's Democratic opponents weren't prepared to go at Clinton, it is clear that Tim Russert had deemed himself the man for the job. He'd give his buddies in the media the headlines they wanted today. It was a disgraceful performance of outright grandstanding in order to fit the debate to the storyline put forth in the press all day yesterday.
UPDATE: I can't say as I disagree with what Matt Stoller has to say:
I'm going to enjoy watching the male spasms of cowardice unleashed if Clinton wins, as she's sworn in and represents the more than half the population that is interrupted on a regular basis by men. It's probably the only part of the Clinton Presidency that I'll like, but it's not a small deal.
After all, as digby highlights some of Chris Matthews foaming at the mouth, it seems the paroxysms of fear are already beginning to spread in the Village:
MATTHEWS: What do you make of the Wellesly speech?
KLEIN: If she does it again, if she goes somewhere that isn‘t her Wellesly, isn‘t her own college, where she‘s whipping up students, and begins making this the issue in her campaign, I think then that will backfire terribly. This is one line.
MATTHEWS: No, no, no. Let‘s go to the jukebox, go back a bit. Remember where she said—she‘s made comments like this before about the woman thing. She does this. This is not the first time. She does this.
CILLIZZA: Chris, I do think one potential problem for her is she‘s trying to both at the same time be somewhat of a victim, in that these men ganged up on her—
MATTHEWS: What gives me experience of dealing with evil men; come on, what was that about?
KLEIN: She does try to play a solidarity card. I think it‘s always smart for her to do so. Hillary Clinton gets that she‘s got to solidify women to go against --
MATTHEWS: It works in the Democratic primaries because 60 percent of the participants are women in the caucuses. Will it backfire in the general? I think it‘s the first time in the campaign she‘s traded general election votes for primary votes and she‘s so far ahead. I don‘t know why she‘s doing it. We‘ll be back with the round table. I seem to be the odd man out here—the odd person out I should say. You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with the round table. Carla Marinucci, I was just triggered into thinking about the number of times Hillary Clinton has yielded herself to this gender card; I‘m your girl out in Chicago. What gives me experience in dealing with evil men, and now this one, rallying the troops up at Wellesly. Is she going to do a seven sisters tour now, a college tour now with Hillary to rally the women against the men?
MARINUCCI: Listen, the men have come after her too, Chris. Let‘s remember Rudy Giuliani last week, talking about what has she really done, what experience does she have to be president? She doesn‘t have my kind of executive experience. I‘m sorry, but that sounded like a Ward Cleaver (ph), 1950‘s guy coming home after work with the woman with five kids and saying what have you done all day?
MATTHEWS: Where did you learn these lines? Marinucci, you‘re too young to know the 1950‘s. How do you know them? That‘s my dad. My mother had to hide the magazines that she read that day from my dad. I think that‘s so great.
MARINUCCI: That‘s what I‘m talking about, Chris. That‘s what I‘m talking about. Women hear that and that‘s why this whole thing is working for her right now.
MATTHEWS: I love that stuff. Anyway, what do you think? Suppose one of the guys says, why don‘t we all get together, guys, and let‘s vote guy.
KLEIN: I‘m pretty sure—
MATTHEWS: Imagine one of them saying, let‘s vote guy this year.
KLEIN: Thompson is running on the fact that he‘s a very tall man.
MATTHEWS: Who did that?
KLEIN: Thompson did. I think it‘s his campaign platform. He‘s not only male, but over six feet tall.
MATTHEWS: Did he bring that up?
KLEIN: Everything you see about Thompson says he‘s huge.
KLEIN: He‘s tall. He‘s big. He‘s manly. The guy‘s running—
MATTHEWS: I think that was my problem with John Stewart the other night, by the way. That‘s just a hunch. What do you think?
KLEIN: I think when Hillary says I‘m your girl, when she invokes her femininity, I think that‘s fine and it‘s good for women voters. If she made this—if she the attacks on me are unfair—
MATTHEWS: Like the boys have got their club house. We can‘t get in the boys‘ club tree house.
KLEIN: She‘s the only woman in this race. She‘s the first time we‘ve ever had a woman that may win.
MATTHEWS: Cillizza, what do you think? Is Hillary right to keep up this torrent of abuse against—just kidding. This torrent of feminism or is she smart to drop it after today? I say drop it. You made your point.
I do believe I can hear Tucker Carlson crossing his legs.