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RussertWatch: Meet The Press — No Really, Meet The Press! And Also, Easter

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Happy Easter Sunday, everyone. (We were tempted to say "Merry Christmas" since the snow outside our window this morning was a tad confusing, but then we recalled watching Charlton Heston part the Red Sea last night, and quickly remembered which sugar-soaked holiday we were, in fact, celebrating). Welcome to this week's RussertWatch, which will be short and sweet, due partly to the innocuous nature of Sunday's Meet the Press, but also, we must confess, to the high amounts of sugar we have consumed today, which are not conducive to long-ish periods of sitting still. A full transcript of today's show can be found here.

Unlike more recent holiday episodes of Meet the Press, which last Easter convened a panel to discuss, "Faith in America," and this past Christmas featured another venerable line-up to discuss...wait for it..."Faith in America," this week's episode was all press, all the time - merely book-ended by pleasant holiday greetings.

While we wouldn't have minded if Tim Russert had used the overlapping of Easter and Passover as a leaping off point to, say, reflect on the role religion has played in the quagmire we find ourselves in in Iraq, it's been a while since we've had an all-press Meet the Press, so in the spirit of the holidays we're going to keep our kvetching to a minimum (and anyway, chocolate eggs are a great pacifier).

This week's line-up of journalists willing to forgo egg-hunts for some Easter morning bantering included NBC's (and recent Bush "dancing man" favorite) David Gregory, PBS's Judy Woodruff, NBC's Chuck Todd, and the National Review's Kate O'Beirne. Topics up for discussion pretty much ran the gamut of recent news stories (though, once again there was no mention of the newly released British soldiers or how the various outcomes of this story reflect on any number of issues, for example: had the seizure of these soldiers lead to war is the US at all prepared for further conflict, and how, post Gonzo-approved, government-condoned, Abu Ghraib torture are we able to take a stand against other countries doing the same). There was, however, a lot of talk about the Democrats and the Iraq spending bill, and who it will end up hurting the most (ie, let the Democrats share some responsibility for this war). There was speculation as to whether Nancy Pelosi's trip to Syria and subsequent involvement in Israeli/Syrian relations constituted an attempt to create a "shadow presidency" on her part (O'Beirne: "Everyone wants to be secretary of state"). Also, there was some reaction to the first quarter presidential candidate fund-raising results (O'Beirne: "Campaign veterans...are more interested in [Clinton's] failure to out-distance Senator Obama than in his incredibly strong showing. She and her husband have been raising money on a national basis for 16 years"). And further talk on John McCain's political deathwatch, and whether Giuliani will continue to be given the green card by Republicans on social issues should a stronger candidate enter the field (namely Fred Thompson).

However there were three exchanges that stuck in our head. First was Chuck Todd's sum-up of the major challenge facing the Republican party (we liked his "three president" theory).

MR. TODD: Well, this is the box they're in. The, the Republicans have to support Bush on this, because they--if there is a divide between the Republican nominee in 2008. Don't forget we're going to have nine months of what I call three presidents. The one in office, and two nominees. And if there is a divide, a real huge divide between the Republican Party's nominee and the president, it's going to destroy the entire Republican Party. So I think that that's why congressional Republicans are sticking with him because they have to. Because if Bush doesn't lead them out of Iraq and doesn't at least sort of make progress and, and, and get the--get something to make it look like things are wrapping up, then it's going to be--it's going to be a horrible thing for the Republican Party. It's going to put them potentially in a wilderness of 25 years on national security issues the way the Democrats were, were put in the wilderness after Vietnam.

Then, regarding Matthew Dowd's recent public-airing of his disillusionment with Bush, Kate O'Beirne had this to say:

I think there might be a larger, more generic lesson about Matthew Dowd, as we head into the next campaign season. Put not your faith in princes, the biblical admonition. He fell in love with a candidate. He's a Democrat. There weren't too many Democrats who fell in love with George Bush in 2000, certainly even fewer in 2004. You know, lying with a candidate takes a, I think, cold-hearted, clear-eyed disposition. Half of all marriages fail, so falling in love with a candidate, I said--I think is a risky business, and this Democrat fell in love with a candidate and is now disillusioned.

We loved the quote, and how it added a new, and reasonable, dimension to the "emotional" argument being bandied around by the White House with regards to Dowd's interview. (Though, we admit, we initially thought it was Shakespeare, when, in fact, it's from Psalm 143: "Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing." Jon Meacham, where are you when we need you?). Also, we thought, it was a somewhat prescient (though, unexplored by Russert) remark considering the love-fest the media laid on Barack Obama, not to mention the 100,000-strong, enthralled grass-roots supporters recently revealed to make up a larger part of Obama's base.

And finally, this:

MR. RUSSERT: So, so two votes, they'll get the money for the troops and have a separate vote to cut off--to have a date certain for withdrawal?

MR. GREGORY: Right, which they think will not prevail. Look, Barack Obama said this week as well, "Let's not play chicken with our troops."

MS. O'BEIRNE: Exactly.

MS. WOODRUFF: Yeah.

MS. O'BEIRNE: Right.

MR. GREGORY: He got excoriated by the left, by the way, on the blogosphere for that, which shows the difficulty on the Democratic side as well, in the disagreement.

This was interesting to us for no other reason than the mention of the word "blogsphere", which we're not used to hearing a whole lot on Meet the Press. Truth be told, we're more used to it's influence on matters of the day being ignored (we're thinking in particular here of the recent Walter Reed scandal and the John Edwards bloggers fallout. Though, we also wonder if, during the show that ran shortly after Trent Lott was forced to resign, any mention of the blogsphere's role was made - MTP transcripts don't go back that far). That said, we don't pretend to have an encyclopedic knowledge of Meet the Press, so if we're off the mark here, please let us know via the comment section and we will update accordingly.

That is all for us. Happy Easter, Happy Passover, and we hope everyone had a safe and happy holidays.