Monday, October 06, 2014

Substance Limited

Now that David Gregory has been bounced from Meet the Press, Washington insiders, as well as the 14  people who still watch the Sunday morning interview programs, are anxious to determine what kind of interviewer politics enthusiast Chuck Todd will conduct.
If Todd's discussion (small portion thereof, video below) with former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, whom some people have speculated may challenge Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, is any indication, not so good.  While a U.S. Senator, Webb worked on prison reform and yesterday raised the issue twice with Todd. However, the NBC veteran ignored the issue, probably because it's an actual issue.
Todd preferred to ask six(6) questions- including five about Hillary Clinton- about the 2016 race. Webb, who was generally something of a moderate while in the upper chamber, took political caution a little far, refusing even to acknowledge that Hillary Clinton was qualified to be President. 
Asked whether Mrs.Clinton is "a qualified candidate to be President," Webb responded "We led on this to Asia, which people talked about a lot for the Obama administration. We began that two years before President Obama was elected. And I've been very strong on different ways to deal with foreign policy."  
The correct answer would have been "yes" or "yes, she has been a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State;"  not giving away any state secrets or making any concessions there.
Credit J.W., however, for boldly stating " I would be willing to bet that we had people at the top of ISIS who actually have been trained by Americans at some point." Do not credit Todd for following up on this fairly extraordinary statement, because he sidestepped it, preferring to dwell on the ex-Senator's "political ambitions."
Todd's major failure, however, was in not following up on a cryptic remark made by his guest in the following exchange: 

CHUCK TODD: Very quickly, a few key issues. Gay marriage. You were for civil unions, but not for legalized gay marriage when you ran in 2006. Have you changed?
JIM WEBB: I took some very tough stands in '06. People will look back at the Virginia campaign. There was a gay marriage amendment on the ballot, an anti-gay marriage amendment on the ballot in Virginia. I've got a lot of family ties down in the far Southwest, and I oppose that. And I'm really comfortable with where the evolution has--
CHUCK TODD: So you're not ready, so legal in some places, but not legal in others?
JIM WEBB: I think this has been a good thing for the country.
CHUCK TODD: Okay. Well, Jim Webb, I'm going to leave it there.
Leave it where, Chuck-O?   The presidential contender may be saying he is "really comfortable" with the shift in law and public opinion toward same-sex marriage. Or he may be maintaining that having same-sex marriage "legal in some places, but not legal in others" is wise, as the US Supreme Court presumably and unwisely thinks it is.
And the former Senator would be kind to spare us his "evolution." If he has changed his mind, he could say so, even avoiding the dreaded, and under-utilized, phrase "I was wrong." Use of the term "evolution" is at once both a dodge and patronizing to those who haven't "evolved" to the high state of consciousness he and President Obama have.
We are left unsure about Webb's views of same-sex marriage because Todd had to "leave it there"- other than by asking Jim Webb one last, seventh question about running for President.

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