Politics & Policy

Dr. Puffball and Mr. Hardball; Jonah’s Word of The Day; Is This Contest Over Yet?


What is wrong with Tim Russert? He’s a nice guy. He’s smart. He does his homework. And yet, he has this bizarre habit of giving a platform to racist demagogues. Give him credit though, he’s got an equal opportunity approach. Last October, he put Louis Farrakhan on Meet the Press for virtually no reason. Yesterday he invited David Duke to share the limelight with him. Why?

Some less-than-generous-souls might suggest that ratings and ego were involved. After all, what gives your Sunday morning numbers a bigger kick in the pants than a good ol’ fashioned sheet-wearing racist? And it can’t hurt Russert’s self-esteem to be able to throw away journalistic “objectivity” (with zero risk) for the sake of sticking up for truth and justice.

But simply because the temptation can be rationalized doesn’t mean Russert should act on it. He’s better than that. But since he did it, there are some things worth commenting on. I think Farrakhan and Duke are intellectually and ideologically inseparable. They want to segregate the races. They want to have “their own” culture. They believe their respective races are superior to others — especially the Jews. When pressed, they say they don’t hate other races, they’re just proud of their own. They deny the Holocaust. They believe that racial representation is imperative for our political system. They hate. They suck.

This is neither a new nor a controversial observation. And yet, Russert, like most in the media, treats the two men very differently. I reread the October 18 Farrakhan transcript and it provides a stunning contrast. Russert began the interview treating the hate-monger like he was a pundit. Later Mr. Russert asked some pointed questions of Farrakhan, sure, but after each answer Russert more or less moved on. Farrakhan dismissed NAACP Chair Julian Bond’s criticism as the mutterings of a “slave” to the Jews. No challenge from Russert. The minister said the Jews are pernicious controllers of the media; no challenge from Russert. Although the moderator of the highest-rated and most prestigious discussion program did ask a sort of “what do you mean?” question, which is nice. Farrakhan called a choice between white Republicans and Democrats a choice between Satan and Lucifer. Nothing from Russert. He called my mother a Zionist spy. Not a peep from Russert — but a great moment for my mom to renegotiate her contract with the Mossad.

When Russert did offer criticism, it always took the form of quotes from other people. “Julian Bond says this.” “Your critics say that.” “Some people feel….” But, with Duke — it was all Russert. He put on his “I’m outraged” hat and hit Duke with all sorts of tough questions. “How can you say this…?!” Russert would ask with barely concealed rage. “What do you have to say about that…?!” he would ask, brimming with pride that he was being tough on the racist freak he was giving free air time to in the first place. “Why aren’t blacks Americans too?!”

In one telling exchange, Russert called Duke to task for his “plan” to separate America into racial homelands. It was a heated exchange that went on for several minutes. Russert wouldn’t let Duke get away with much and wouldn’t drop the subject. “Why, in your world, do only white Europeans qualify as true Americans, and if you’re black or you’re Jewish, you’re something less?” Russert asked indignantly. I’d reprint the whole badinage, but it goes on too long. What I can reprint is the exchange between Russert and Farrakhan on the same subject.

MIN. FARRAKHAN: Oh, to advise somebody to vote for Satan or Lucifer is to still keep you in hell. The Democrats have been disloyal to the needs of black people and the Republicans don’t give a damn. So why should we vote for either one? If you don’t give us justice, it’s time for us to separate and do something for ourselves.

MR. RUSSERT: Separate black states, separate black territories?

MIN. FARRAKHAN: We’re going to have to do something. We can’t sit around waiting for benevolent white people to give us handouts. We have the blessing of knowledge, wisdom, understanding, billions of dollars coming through our hands. We have to get up now and do something for ourselves because white folk and benevolent Democrats and Republicans are not going to do for us what we should be uniting to do for ourselves.

MR. RUSSERT: Finally, Minister, there was, three years ago, the Million Man March here in Washington; will there be another Million Man March soon?

Way to hold his feet to the fire, Tim!

When Duke offered the same racist twaddle, Russert suggested that Duke was calling for genocide.

I’m not saying that Russert should have been harder on Farrakhan out of fairness to Duke — or easier on Duke out of fairness to Farrakhan. The truth is he should have been really hard on both of them — by not having them on in the first place. But if you’re going to have them on, put them up against real critics. Why couldn’t Julian Bond come on with Farrakhan to show that black intellectual diversity is thriving (Actually who he really should have had on is Stanley Crouch — the only black intellectual to really say what needs to be said about Farrakhan). Ditto with Duke. Why couldn’t Bill Bennett, or Pat Buchanan even, have come on and said — we don’t like this guy, we hate what he is saying, etc. This isn’t what conservatism or the Republican Party is about. The real problem with Russert’s treatment of the racist twins is that he missed the big picture with both of them. Duke is the inevitable outcome of Farrakhan. Duke says Congress needs at least one member who will represent “European people.” There’s a logic there. We have dozens of Congressmen who say they are there solely to represent “black interests.” The elite media is not merely terrified of denouncing this, they’re terrified of not applauding it. Why is a white guy any worse than a black guy who calls for separate homelands? Why is “black anti-Semitism” an unfortunate problem remediable through education and anti-poverty programs, but white anti-Semitism irredeemably evil? Ideas are not “white” or “black.” They are good or bad, true or false. For the last 20 years, from the Supreme Court down, we have sanctioned the idea that black politicians should represent black people exclusively. It is liberal cant that racial identity cannot be transcended. So deep is this racist principle embedded in our political culture, it is actually considered racist to question it. Is it any wonder that at some point white guys would start using the same arguments?


I would rather dress like Carmen Miranda on a Greek prison ship than encroach upon William F. Buckley’s turf as supreme wordsmith at National Review. And yet, I need to share a really cool new word I learned:


What is it? The thwack of a rubber hose during an interrogation?

BRUCE LINDSEY: “What…did…you…tell…the…grand…jury…about…the…president?! Whap!”

SIDNEY BLUMENTHAL: “I told them nothing. But thank you, sir, may I have another?”

Or perhaps it is a sexual encounter far below the earth’s surface? (Sorry, National Review censors say no graphic dialogue example here. If you really need one, just take the Carmen Miranda image from above and change the setting to a 19th-century Australian prison mining colony).

No, an interrobang is a punctuation mark used to signify a simultaneous question and exclamation: “?!” for example. You’ll see that I used many interrobangs in my discussion of Tim Russert.

I don’t know why I’m sharing this, but it just sounds so cool if you say it out loud: InterroBANG! “Mr. Farrakhan, why should we take you seriously when you claim to have been probed by aliens in spaceships?!” — INTERROBANG!

It’s good stuff. Think of it like drawing your gun in a duel. 1…2…3 INTERROBANG!

Sorry, that was really self-indulgent. Why…do…I…keep…doing…things…like…this INTERROBANG?!


Okay, below are the winners of the semifinals for the sweatiest movie ever. The science here is shoddy, the criteria dubious. I am so sick of the question, I am tempted to declare My Dinner with André the winner and be done with it. I am especially peeved that King Rat was kicked off the ballot. But the people in the home office have millions riding on this. So, we press on. As I mentioned on Friday — I don’t want any more nominations. I don’t want to discuss the words “sweat,” “movies,” or even “ever” any more. In fact I have stopped seeing movies entirely and tomorrow I am going to a Tijuana dermatologist to have my sweat glands plugged up with tiny devices called interrobangs.

Here you go, the poll will run all week. And when I can say those words again, I will announce the winner.

The Jonah Poll The Mother of All Sweatiest Movies Poll

In the Heat of the Night

Raging Bull

The Rocky Movies

Bridge on the River Kwai

Cool Hand Luke


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