I woke up this morning actually looking forward to Meet the Press. Stockholm Syndrome? Maybe, but it was also the pleasant thought of the roundtable segment, which, this week, as well as the Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes and the New Yorker's George Packer, included Frank Rich, whose columns have been relentlessly and powerfully linking Plamegate to the war in Iraq.
And of course I was looking forward to Tim once again not telling his viewers about his own involvement in Plamegate or even respecting his viewers enough to tell them that he won't tell them about his own involvement in Plamegate.
In the first segment, with Senators George Allen, Kay Bailey Hutchison, and Chuck Schumer, we basically had each guest rattling off their prepared talking points, with little engagement of the other guests, the host, or the viewer. The only thing of note is the news that Senator Hutchison doesn't think lying under oath -- or what she called "some perjury technicality" -- is a big deal (sometimes it is, but not in this instance, and should only be prosecuted every now and again).
And then came the roundtable segment. With Bill Keller now practically publishing a blog of every-other-day mea culpas about what Judy Miller did to the New York Times, and with Public Editor Byron Calame slapping down the paper, surely, I thought, Tim would be able to get something of note out of the Times' star columnist, Frank Rich. And for those who don't subscribe to TimesSelect, this would be their only chance to hear Rich on the subject.
But, as they say in the sports world, Tim just didn't bring it today. In the roundtable segment, Tim continued his "okay, you talk for a minute, now the other guy talks for a minute" line of questioning.
It got so flat and boring that I actually found myself drifting back to Frank Rich's column in the Sunday paper, which was much better than what Tim got out of him on the show.
In "Karl and Scooter's Excellent Adventure," Rich takes us back to 2002 and the hatching of the Iraq war and shows us how Libby, the Washington policy intellectual, and Rove, the Texas political operative, both decided for different reasons that they needed the war in Iraq and they had to sell it to the American people:
"For Mr. Rove and Mr. Bush to get what they wanted most, slam-dunk midterm election victories, and for Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney to get what they wanted most, a war in Iraq for reasons predating 9/11, their real whys for going to war had to be replaced by fictional, more salable ones. ... Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney were in the boiler room of the disinformation factory. The vice president's repetitive hyping of Saddam's nuclear ambitions in the summer and fall of 2002 as well as his persistence in advertising bogus Saddam-Qaeda ties were fed by the rogue intelligence operation set up in his own office."
And as Rich concludes in his column, Plamegate "would seem a misdemeanor next to the fables that they and their bosses fed the nation and the world as the whys for invading Iraq."
That's it. You can't understand a crime without understanding the motive, and covering up the lies about Iraq is the Plamegate motive.
You wouldn't have gotten any of that from watching the show. But you would have seen two clips -- one of Bush saying in September 2003 that if someone in his administration "violated the law, the person will be taken care of," and one of Scott McClellan saying that Rove and Libby "were not involved" in the Plame leak -- twice. Once in the first segment, and once in the second.
What made watching these clips, twice, even odder was that they served to highlight Russert's own hypocrisy. What's the purpose of this parlor game? Is Tim ever going to come clean, as the New York Times is at least trying to do? And as Matt Cooper and Walter Pincus already have done?
At this point, it seems unlikely. But it's going to be a long few months for him, if he's just going to, as he seemed to be doing today, run out the clock with open-mic talking-point slams.
When I asked my HuffPost partner Kenny Lerer what he thought of the show this morning, he told me he started it, and then switched to Pet Keeping with Marc Morrone. In fact, he then said he's decided to start competing with Russert Watch by blogging every Sunday about Pet Keeping, so stay tuned for that. The funny thing is, you're as likely to learn the nature of Tim's involvement in the Plame affair from Pet Keeping as from Tim's own show.
My conclusion: stay in bed and read Frank Rich. And watch Pet Keeping.