08/07/2005 02:06 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Russert Watch -- Pattern Recognition

For the last few weeks, as the discussion of the Plame/Rove/Novak affair has occupied various segments of Meet the Press, I've pointed out how...demure Tim Russert has been in acknowledging his own role in the news story upon which he's performing as objective interrogator. Today, it happened again in a completely different context. The leadoff guests were Mario Cuomo and Dr. Douglas Kmiec of Pepperdine; the topic was the role of religion in the nomination of John Roberts to be a Supreme Court Justice, in the wake of E.J. Dionne's WashPo column suggesting that, since conservatives have pushed for a larger role for religion in the public square, those who take that position shouldn't be shy about explaining the role religion plays in their work. Of course, the touchy area involved is the possibility of a religious test for office on the one hand, and, on the other, revival of old-fashioned Kennedy-era fears of a Papist hand on the Republic's heart.

Russert mentioned, just after introducing his guests, that he had worked for Cuomo twenty years ago. Good disclosure. But since the subject at hand was one's Catholic faith, and how it affected one's professional temperament, might it have been appropriate for Russert also to mention that he shared the nominee's faith? Sure, it's a tricky business, but as the only questioner on the broadcast, co-religion might have a greater impact on his willingness to pose tough, impolite queries than a two-decade-old work relationship with one of the guests. Misdirection, thy name is MTP.