Friday, May 07, 2004

Calling Tim Russert ... calling Tim Russert ...

At the incomparable Bob Somerby's Daily Howler site, there's an amusing example of exactly what kind of utter media whore Tim Russert can be, and why that's suddenly relevant all over again.

As you can read here, back in 2003, Russert was interviewing then presidential candidate Howard Dean. At one point, Russert sprung a trivia "gotcha" question on Dean, asking him how many troops were actively on duty in the U.S. military. Never mind that Dean was a Democrat, and the administration at the time was Republican. Never mind that Dean wasn't involved in military planning. In Russert's mind, it was somehow unconscionable that Dean didn't have this tidbit of information right then and right there:

DEAN: For me to have to know right now, participating in the Democratic Party, how many troops are actively on duty in the United States military when that is actually a number that's composed both of people on duty today and people who are National Guard people who are on duty today, it's silly. That's like asking me who the ambassador to Rwanda is.

RUSSERT: Oh, no, no, no. Not at all. Not if you want to be commander in chief.

Russert continued his helpful instruction:

RUSSERT: If somebody wants to be president of the United States, have a sense of the military-

DEAN: I do have a sense of the military.

RUSSERT: -of how many people roughly-

DEAN: I know there are roughly between a million and two million people active duty. I know that we don't have enough people in Iraq.

At the time, there were in fact 1.4 million active members, so one can certainly accept that Dean was accurate, even if he wasn't painstakingly precise. And what does that have to do with the price of tea in China?

Check out this recent CNN online article describing how Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz (yes, the Deputy Defense Secretary, and someone who should know) wasn't even remotely close to stating how many U.S. servicepeople had died in Iraq thus far:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Asked how many American troops have died in Iraq, the Defense Department's No. 2 civilian estimated Thursday the total was about 500 -- more than 200 soldiers short.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was asked about the toll at a hearing of a House Appropriations subcommittee. "It's approximately 500, of which -- I can get the exact numbers _ approximately 350 are combat deaths," he responded...

American deaths Thursday were at 722 -- 521 of them from combat _ since the start of military operations in Iraq last year, according to the Department of Defense.

Apparently, trivialities like dead American soldiers are just not a big issue with the Department of Defense, who clearly can't be bothered to even count them. And Wolfowitz's subsequent defense of this?

"He misspoke," spokesman Charley Cooper said later. "That's all."

Uh, yeah, I'll say. And we can expect Russert to go ballistic on Wolfowitz ... when exactly?

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