Sunday, January 30, 2005

Talking Heads: Meet the Press

Courtesy: NBC News Meet the Press

This morning, NBC’s Meet the Press scooped the competition with Sen. John Kerry’s (D-MA) first televised interview since the November election. [Transcript.] But first, moderator Tim Russert debriefed Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, live in Baghdad. The peacock’s new boy wonder did his stand-up from the heavily fortified ‘Green Zone, against the backdrop of sandbags, concrete bunkers and machine-gunned turrets.

Russert quizzed the anchor about the lengthy certification process expected from today's Iraqi elections. This much we know: in any election, the returns are very fluid—results from individual precincts may trickle in, or they may flood. Given Iraq’s situation, expect the former. So in his usual hyper-vague anchor-speak, Williams told us:
This is probably, it's safe to say at this hour, a fairly unquantifiable election so far.”
FYI, fairly unquantifiable is anchor-speak for “it’s too soon to know”—which in situations like this, we already know.

Russert is a master at getting people back on track. He knows how to handle these sticky situations—anchors reporting live from exotic locations, with too much satellite time and too few facts.
MR. RUSSERT: Brian, when will we have some hard results? Prior to the election, it was thought it may take as long as two weeks.
MR. WILLIAMS: It appears that at eight to 10 days is our first best shot at some actual hard numbers. As you know, you've seen the ballot. It's a complex affair. [Transcript: "NBC NEWS' MEET THE PRESS."]
The Iraqi ballot may be complex and difficult to navigate, but it’s mere child’s play compared to the next segment, the Kerry interview. The senator continued to waffle, backtrack and even parse semantics (see transcript for comments on his war record).

Sen. Kerry began the program strong. Russert asked him to comment on Secretary Rice’s assertion that the election has gone “better than expected.” Kerry’s response was direct: “I think it's gone as expected.” Then, he expressed ambivalence about the election’s legitimacy: “It's hard to say that something is legitimate when a whole portion of the country can't vote and doesn't vote. I think this election was important.”

The low-turnout was expected in many Sunni areas. Officials estimate up to 8-million Iraqis vote—about 60 percent of the eligible electorate. That’s higher than our last election. Not to say the election will hardly legitimize our occupation, but low turnout doesn’t necessarily mean failure.

[digress]BTW, I’m hardly a Bush supporter; I voted for Kerry, albeit reluctantly. Truth be told, Ray Charles could have seen that Kerry would never win. A liberal Massachusetts Democrat will never win the White House, as we’ve seen with Tsongas, Dukakis, et al. The road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue always runs through the south—Bush knows this, Gore had a fighting chance, and that’s why Clinton and Carter were elected. My politics are more of a centrist-Clinton Democrat.[/digress]

Kerry continues to have difficulty stating his positions. Later in the MTP interview, Russert asked Kerry for his take on the latest proposal from Sen. Ted Kennedy. Massachusetts senior senator has suggested the administration negotiate an immediate troop withdrawal with the new Iraqi government, and timetable a pull-out. Kerry’s “No” was emphatic to both questions. But then, he rambled about troop safety and dropped a shocker: “I wouldn't be surprised if the administration privately, behind closed doors, asked them to ask us to leave.”

MR. RUSSERT: Do you have any information that the Bush administration is
privately requesting the new Iraqi government to ask us to leave?
MR. RUSSERT: You just suppose that may be happening?
You’re not the only one feeling confused.

MSNBC will rebroadcast this week's show:
•Sunday night at 10 p.m. ET and 1 a.m. ET