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Sunday, January 04, 2004

Sunday Wrestling

I admit to feeling some frustration with guests on the Sunday talk shows who are so incredibly scripted that they just manage to fit in their little soundbites wherever they feel like, and with hosts who don't work to get their guests to answer the questions. All too often the talk shows that feature pols are a waste of time if you want to learn anything or see a real discussion of the issues.

That said, I thought Tim Russert's little performance with Wes Clark this morning was a bit silly. Russert spent a lot of time trying to put Clark into the corner, to get him to swear he wouldn't be interested in the VP slot, that it was almost funny.

Look, it should hardly surprise anyone if any but the most prominent pols out there, including those running for president, would take the VP slot if offered. And yet acknowledging that, or an interest in any other campaign (remember when Sen. Clinton was campaigning in NY) is a good way to shoot yourself in the foot for whatever you want today. So putting them on the spot, repeatedly and tenaciously, while one of the most important skills of any tv interviewer, can be taken too far.

It reminds me of a BBC interview show I used to watch where the host seemed very well informed and, having about an hour with a guest, had plenty of time to be nice and yet really go after answers to tough questions. Once when he interviewed a former dictator accused of human rights abuses I applauded when the interviewer pushed to get real answers to tough questions. Another time when interviewing the representative of an NGO, the same host was the perfect image of a bulldog. I found it to be mean spirited and unnecessary. Hmmmm.