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Sunday, Mar 5, 2006, 9:07 am

Russert Watch: Forgetting the new evidence of Bush’s lies

By Tracy Van Slyke

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Yawn – I have to say this episode of "Meet the Press" seemed like a filler episode. Russert had Gen. Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on, to share his expert opinion about how he doesn’t think Iraq is on the brink of civil war (as if it isn’t in the midst of one RIGHT NOW), that the Iraqi people want peace (I would say most people don’t look forward to bombs and blood in their streets), and of course, the Iraqi people are better off w/out Saddam Hussein in power. Let’s not even go to there right now, because frankly, I’m a little disappointed the Administration hasn’t updated these talking points yet.

But here’s a real question for you, Tim. Where is the Katrina Video? Where is it? We have to listen to the Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff tell us that “this is a tough environment, but we’re making progress” in Iraq. (Whoa – I didn’t expect him to say that!! Thank goodness, you brought him on to give us this stimulating assessment.) Let’s put aside the small issue that there was no one brought on to even debate Gen. Pace about when we can all finally admit Iraq is internally imploding. The fact that you can’t even take a few moments to discuss the fact that President Bush has been caught in a direct lie about what the federal government knew in advance to the worst disaster in American history is just disappointing to me Tim. Please, hang your head in shame.

Russert can’t even start off this repetitive interview without sidestepping a direct question. Russert says to Gen. Pace, “If you were to be asked whether things in Iraq are going well or badly, what would you say? How would you answer?” If you were to be asked… Tim, Tim–just admit it–you are asking him!!!

When asked about a poll that shows 62 percent of the American public thinks the Iraqi occupation is going badly, Gen. Pace blamed the lack of 24-hour news coverage and good stories getting out to the public. This answer is not only tired, but is crap… People are dying by the thousands. Iraqi political factions are scrambling to topple each other and to kick out the foreign occupiers and are using literally any weapon at their disposal. Iraqi employment is unstable and for many – short-term.. So, I’m sorry, Gen. Pace, life’s tough when the media can’t be bought for everything!

And Tim, once again, how many people died in Katrina because of the government’s failure to acknowledge the information being shoved in their face about the potential disaster that was about to fall into their laps? Whether it is forced action based on false information or life-threatening inaction based on very good information, I believe the Bush Administration’s skewed tunnel vision is worth a few moments on Sunday morning.

But the highlight of the first part of the show for me, wasn’t the two-step tango between Russert and Gen. Pace around the increasing militia and death squad attacks over the last few weeks, but Pace’s visible discomfort when Russert brought up that Noam Chomsky is one of Iraq’s interim Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari favorite American authors.

GEN. PACE squirmed in response and said, “I hope he has more than one book on his nightstand.”

And then on came Jack Kemp and Sen. John Edwards, former “want-to-be-vice presidents,” as Tim calls them (in which Edwards responded, “Can you find another way to describe us?”) to discuss their report from co-chairing the Council on Foreign Relations task force on US-Russian relations.

Tim went on to ask Kemp such insightful questions as, “How much trouble are we in Iraq?” and “Were there some fundamental misjudgments, obviously about weapons of mass destruction, but what about the intensity of the insurgency and the number of troops necessary?” Tim then spent four minutes calling out Edwards on the former Senator’s change of heart over his vote supporting the war in Iraq. Because that is the top news we need to be thinking about right now. Of course, I believe the only reason Tim had them on was to get Edwards to admit that he was thinking of running for president in ’08. I can just imagine the saliva running down Russert’s mouth as he pins Edwards down around the question that remains the eternal flame of Sunday morning talk shows.

And then yadda, yadda, yadda, some lip service is paid to our relations with Russia and its increasingly anti-Democratic actions.

But the crowning moment of the show was Tim’s last line, “It’s nice to have a Democrat and a Republican sit here together.” Yes – isn’t that just lovely? Maybe, and here’s just a little suggestion, Tim, try it again next week.

You can read a full transcript of this titillating hour here.
For more information on how you can push Russert and Meet the Press to do more, read this.

Tracy Van Slyke, a former publisher of In These Times, is the project director for The Media Consortium.

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