11/27/2006 04:23 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Russert Watch: Schwarzenegger, Iraq, And Sticking To The Script

Greetings and welcome to RussertWatch. I know. It's been a while. As I've mentioned, I've been doing this: HuffPo's mediacentric Eat The Press, which you should all bookmark right now. Go on, I'll wait. There you go. We've had something of a revolving roster here, with subsequent MTP coverage migrating to news during the campaign season, when it became less important to watch Russert as to watch all the Sunday shows plus keep an eye on YouTube for various abominations here and there. But if I am honest, I will admit that it's also because I vastly, vastly prefer CNN's Reliable Sources and find it more interesting, topical, nimble and less likely to feature a reliable mix of John McCain, Condi Rice, Newt Gingrich and, well, Tim Russert. Because after months of watching Russert critically, I maintain my original opinion that he is a stiff, boring interviewer who not only refuses to deviate from pre-set questions but doesn't really seem able to do so (see, for example, his failure to correct Gingrich on his assertion of a Saddam-9/11 link). As I've mentioned before, Russert just isn't responsive, or reactive; he doesn't pounce on assertions made by his guests or force them to account for their positions. He just asks his question, lets them answer, and moves on.

Which brings us to today's main point, earlier made on Eat The Press here: Russert asked guest Arnold Schwarzenegger about what kind of effect losers environmental detractors like Senator James "Global Warming Is An Elaborate Hoax" Inhofe had on the Republican party. Schwarzenegger dismissed Inhofe's comments as "backward-thinking" and from "the Stone Age," and stated that global warming was fact, asserting that global warming was scientifically-proven fact and saying that "we can slow it down or we can stop it, but only if everyone is working together." Watch it here:

Here's the thing: Schwarzenegger's remarks were in response to Russert's question about Inhofe's effect on Republican credibility. Schwarzenegger chose not to directly respond. Here's the other thing: Neither did Russert. It was his question, yet when he didn't get an answer he let it go. Despite Schwarzenegger's care in not assigning blame, Inhofe is not some random crank, he's the chair of the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works. Somebody appointed him, and somebody kept him there (hint: It's also the same someone who refuses to see An Inconvenient Truth). Yet Russert let it go, leaving his question unanswered and leaving alone the suggestion that anti-environmentalism in the GOP was the result of a few kooky members, that's all. It's not all, yet Russert left it alone, typically.

There's more at the transcript here, where Schwarzenegger talks about being "an Arnold Republican," agrees that, if acceding to the will of the people makes him a girlie man, then he's guilty as charged, and where Russert asks the inevitable question about whether Ahnold still plans to try to run for Prez; no, says Ahnold, because he doesn't think immigration reform will happen in his lifetime, but that's okay — for an Austrian immigrant he's had one hell of an American dream. See below, which could easily be subtitled "And P.S., I Also Bagged A Kennedy":

In addition to Ahnold, we also have the war in Iraq, which today equals the number of days the U.S. spent in World War II. Another milestone. Guests are the chair and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, Congressmen Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Ike Skelton (D-MO) plus and retired generals Wayne Downing and Barry McCaffrey, also an NBC military analyst. For some reason they are still asking the question: "Is this a civil war?" to which Skelton gives the first good answer:

MR. RUSSERT: You keep using the words "sectarian violence." Is it a civil war, in all honesty?

REP. SKELTON: You know, it depends on what you call a civil war.

MR. RUSSERT: Well, what do you think?

REP. SKELTON: Scholars will say no. I will say yes, because the violence is, is so heavy. In true civil wars, Tim, there's a political goal. There is a way to stop it and shake hands and put an end to it. The sectarian violence, the only purpose is to kill each other. The Sunnis are killing the Shiites, the Shiites killing the Sunnis, and among themselves. But insofar as peace and decorum is concerned, it's a civil war in, in my book.

There is, of course, the inevitable discussion of the catchily-phrased "out of Iraq" options: "Go Big, Go Long, or Go Home." (Hut! Hut! Hut!). Though most would probably agree that soundbytes aren't the way to determine national military policy (though they do make great headlines), General McCaffrey's take on it is a bit chilling:

Twenty-four more MONTHS? It'll take that long for the Iraqis to stand up so America can stand down? Crooks & Liars points out that it's the same old song of "another 4-6 months, another 4-6 months" (or, to quote, the "endless cycle of Friedmans"). And, in the meantime no doubt, an endless cycle of debate on MTP.

Catch the video replay here, the transcript (as mentioned) here, and all sorts of smart, incisive commentary in the comments below because surely by now the tryptophan has worn off, and I'll call you Shirley if I damn well feel like it, to be Frank. Yes, it's this kind of humor that keeps you tuning in, because if it's Sunday, it's RussertWatch. Happy Thanksgiving!