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Suggestions For Tim Russert

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Senator Obama will spend an hour with NBC’s Tim Russert on Sunday’s Meet The Press. I share Mark Steyn’s skepticism that Russert will ask the tough though very obvious questions. Here’s the relevant exchange with Steyn from yesterday’s program (full transcript here):

HH: Do you expect that Russert will be hard on him, soft on him, or just about right, Goldilocks style?

MS: I would imagine that that will be a relatively soft interview. And the thing about Obama is he has this, he’s a very articulate guy when it comes to saying nothing. That’s why he got those rave reviews for that speech he did after the Reverend Wright thing blew up at first, where he amplified the issue. He said it’s not about my crummy pastor, it’s about race, it’s about race in America, it’s about civil rights, it’s about slavery, it’s about everything except what it was actually about. And he was persuasive in the moment, which is why he got those rave reviews for the speech. And then it’s like seeing a movie that seems terrific at the time, but by the time you get to the restaurant twenty minutes later, you can’t remember a thing about it. And that’s like a lot of Obama’s rhetoric.

HH: What’s driving me crazy about this, Mark Steyn, is that my lawyering past and present come to play, and people aren’t asking the obvious questions you would ask of any witness in any deposition about the relationship between Wright and Obama. Okay, let’s go back to first steps. How often did you go to Church, how often did you see each other, did you travel together to the Million Man March, and that sort of accumulation of details by which the relationship can be judged. And the media, Tim Russert probably won’t ask even that basic question, did you see each other at the Million Man March. And it’s maddening.

MS: Yeah, but those guys won’t ask those questions, because they know they’re going to not like the answers. That’s the question you’d be asked on cross-examination. It’s not what your own lawyer would want to ask you, because he knows the answers. So Tim Russert knows the answers, and Katie Couric knows the answers, and Meredith Vieira knows the answers. And we all know the reality. Jeremiah Wright, to his credit, has more integrity than Barack Obama. He says sure, sure I said God damn America, and sure I talked about the AIDS conspiracy, and sure I went to see Colonel Qaddafi. I’m not ashamed about it. You want me to tell you more about that? I’ll do you another forty minute riff on it. In his own perverse way, he has a kind of integrity. The man who doesn’t is the man who spent twenty years in this man’s company, and now claims to be stunned, stunned that he didn’t know this guy at all.

Russert, of course, has all the ability to drill down, the question is whether he will use those formidable skills.

What is most obviously missing from the public record about Obama are details as to his life after his graduation from Columbia and prior ro 2004. Tim Russert would do us all a great favor if he asked all of these questions:

What year did you join Trinity Church?

How often did you attend services there? (This requires follow-up after the inevitable ambiguous answer. Wwas it quarterly, monthly, weekly? Did you belong to any of the church’s many organizations, like a men’s fellowship? These aren’t trick questions. Any church member knows exactly how often they go to church, and the patterns don’t change much after they are set.)

When you attended the Million Man March, did you go with a group of men from Trinity? Did you see Pastor Wright on that trip?

How often would you see Pastor Wright in a setting away from church.

Did you go out to dinner together? Socialize together? Travel together?

You heard him preach on “white man’s greed,” that’s in your memoir Dreams from My Father. And when you told him he couldn’t deliver the opening prayer at your campaign kick-off, you said it was because he could be “a little rough.” How often did you hear him preach on the greed of white people, and what did you mean by “a little rough.”

I’d like to know about your friendship with Bernadine Dohrn and William Ayers.

They hosted an event for you when you ran for state senate, right?

Bernadine Dohrn worked at Sidley and Austin when your wife worked there, and maybe when you were a summer associate there, is that correct?

You and William Ayers served on a foundation board together, correct?

So how well do you know them and how often have you seen them over the past dozen years?

Did you ever socialize with them?

Let’s talk about Tony Rezko. He helped you buy your house? Did you have any other business dealings with him at all?

Did you socialize with him? Attend events at his home?

Michelle Obama gave a speech a week ago Friday in which she bemoaned how much you two had been in debt until you wrote your two best-sellers. How much had you been in debt?

She also talked about the burdens of the student loans you two had accumulated. How much had you two borrowed to get through college and law school?

Did you receive financial aid other than loans from Columbia or Harvard Law?

Harvard Law has a program that encourages new grads to go into public interest work. Were there any such incentives or encouragements when you left Harvard Law School?

Do you think the country has made great progress on race relations?

Do you believe the government had anything to do with inventing AIDs?

Your church bulletin had some amazing things in it, which can fairly be described as extremely anti-Israel and some would say anti-semitic, such as the charge that Israel was developing a bomb that would kill only Arabs. Did you ever read anything in one of the Trinity bulletins that caused you to approach the leadership of the church and ask for more judgment or balance in the publications?

People are worried about your judgment. There’s your friendship with Pastor Wright, and you say you didn’t know about his quote rants.” There’s your friendship with Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, and you say you were 8 when they were blowing up people and buildings, but in November of 2007 they said horrible things about the U.S. There’s Tony Rezko, your business partner on the land deal which makes him your neighbor, and now he’s in the dock.

How can people be confident that your judgment about people has improved?


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