Hello and welcome to this week's RussertWatch. This Sunday's Meet the Press touted an exclusive with Virginia Tech President Charles Steger, followed by HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings (and Virginia Gov. Kaine commission chair and member), Ret. VA State Police Col. W. Gerald Massengill and Fmr. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, followed by a round table discussion with Doris Kearns Goodwin, Newsweek EIC Jon Meacham, and NBC's David Gregory and Pete Williams. A transcript can be found here. The podcast (which enabled us to re-watch the second half of the show after an extended commercial break phone call proved too distracting) can be found here.
Truth be told, we have very little to say about this week's Meet the Press. Largely because it felt like Meet the Press had very little to say (and yes, we realize, this is not necessarily a new phenomenon, but considering the kind of week the country has just seen it deserves an extra mention). That's not to say we're doubting the sincerity of Tim Russert's condolences to those affected by the shootings, or even his painfully awkward "Go Hokies" sign-off to Virginia Tech President Steger. However, by showcasing a circle of talking heads that arguably could have been cut and pasted into or out of any post-tragedy round-table over the last fifteen years, Russert managed to make the entire tragic event seem almost irrelevant. Quite a feat, indeed.
Certainly our Sunday morning expectations are never that high, but one would think that a discussion about the Virginia Tech shootings might exceed the nominal "who's ultimately to blame?" and "let's-talk to a government appointed panel", and also include some discussion about the ramifications of the "multimedia manifesto" that was sent to NBC, or the network's subsequent and controversial decision to air it. In an ideal world the conversation might even have extended to some sort of exploration as to why last week's thirty-two terrible, but random and arguably impossible to prevent, deaths were somehow more terrible than the endless carnage in Iraq, which we are capable of foreseeing and doing something about. We know, we know, wrong MSNBC host.
Needless to say, the second half of the show didn't exactly set us on fire, either. The general consensus, regardless of whether the topic was Alberto Gonzales, the recent Supreme Court ruling on partial birth abortions, or the Virginia Tech Shootings (wherein we briefly witnessed Tim waving a copy of the "manifesto"), was that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are currently eager to polarize the debate on ANY of the issues. Moderation is key, apparently. A sentiment well reflected by an agreeable, let's not make waves round-table (or were they all merely suffering post-traumatic Rich Little syndrome?) Regardless, there was very little to cause us pause.
What didn't immediately leave our thoughts, however, was Matt Taibbi's blazing "Low Post" column about Don Imus (dare we dredge up that now ancient news story) over at Rolling Stone, which we read while waiting for Meet the Press to download into our iTunes. (A quickie excerpt: "The idea that anyone in the media world gives a shit about the dignity of women, black or white, is a ridiculous joke. America's TV networks have spent the last forty years falling over each other trying to find better and more efficient ways to sell tits to the 18-to-35 demographic.") It also lead us to ponder how much less frustrating our Sunday morning television viewing might be if NBC created some sort of Meet the Press Idol show wherein we all voted on substitute hosts and/or round-table members. Now there's a Sunday morning we'd like to meet!