So I wrote this post about how Tim Russert is whack, and then Kevin Drum linked to it and added the idea — not present in my post — that “this is not a partisan issue. The gotcha routine, no matter who it comes from, is bad for everyone, both Republicans and Democrats.” Bob Somerby threw a fit, declaring “It’s time to give up on Kevin and Matt and all the Good Boys of the Village suburbs” and throughout the item just attributes Kevin’s views on this to me, though I said no such thing in the post I wrote.
Meanwhile, though I don’t really want to speculate as to Russert’s motives, I think the impact of his methods is pretty unambiguously bad for Democrats. It’s not a “partisan issue” in the sense that one could, in principle, be both a member of the Republican Party and also be a politician whose career would benefit from participating in a serious discussion of important issues, but in practice the whole ludicrous enterprise is a boon to the Party of Flim-Flam.
Then on top of that, what I didn’t get into because I wanted to talk about Russertism more broadly, is that it seems obvious that Russert has a special animosity for Hillary Clinton or perhaps for both Clintons. That gets into the whole other question of why it is that possession of a bitter and contentless aversion to the Clinton family is considered something worth flaunting — or even exaggerating — in DC press circles (which I guess we’re supposed to call The Village these days, but since I grew up in the Village in NYC I don’t care for the term) rather than the sort of thing one keeps to oneself.
But to summarize, Russert’s interview methods obscure the good ideas of people who have good ideas, but also obscure the bad ideas of people who have bad ideas, drawing all political conversation into a miasma of substance-free posturing. I don’t happen to think it’s worthwhile to append every lamentation of the sorry state of political discourse with the observation that said sorry state is bad for liberals and (most) Democrats (seems to work fine for Joe Lieberman and it was always a boon to John Breaux) but for what it’s worth I think Kevin should consider the fact that partisan politics is an essentially zero sum game so given Russert’s considerable influence his quirks and derangements can’t really be non-partisan in their impact.