Russert Responds

It's not clear why Jerry Kilgore thought it was a good idea to attack NBC superstar Tim Russert, the moderator of Tuesday's debate, in an email to supporters.

The email said: "The debate was moderated by Tim Russert, who at every turn, disregarded the agreed upon rules and time limits. Despite Russert's obvious favoritism of Tim Kaine (even noted by leading political scientist, Larry Sabato), Jerry went on the offensive immediately and portrayed Kaine as a classic tax and spend liberal."

Russert_tim

But it's very clear why it was a bad idea.

The Kaine campaign today issued a press release calling the Kilgore email "a desperate attempt to explain to supporters Jerry Kilgore's poor performance at the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce debate on Tuesday."

And worse, in today's Hotline, a newsletter for political junkies, Russert responded: "I did exactly what the Chamber asked me to do. The problem was not with the rules; it was with the answers."

Ouch.

The Chamber of Commerce apparently decided that they should take the blame for the political back-and-forth. Tony Howard, the Chamber's spokesman, told Hotline that "If there was any time that any of the participants felt uncertain about the letter and the spirit of the rules and how they applied to a live debate format, then as the chief point of contact for the Fairfax County Chamber with each of the participants, then I am at fault."

By Michael Shear |  September 15, 2005; 4:49 PM ET  | Category:  Jerry Kilgore
Previous: Governing Mag: "Knock it Off" | Next: Jumpin' the Gun

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I think it's bad form for Kilgore to trash Russert, but the Chamber of Commerce decision to go for "star power" instead of solid Virginia credentials in choosing a debate moderator is hard to understand. Give me VCU Professor Holsworth any day.

For a Senate debate, Tim Russert would be my top choice for a questioner. For two candidates debating provincial Old Dominion issues, having Russert moderate was like hiring John Roberts to contest a speeding ticket.

Posted by: Will Vehrs | September 15, 2005 08:04 PM

Larry Sabato said that Russert was much harder on Kilgore than he was on Kaine, so it isn't just the Kilgore folks making this accusation.

Also, regarding the abortion exchange, what bothered me about Russert was that he thought he was hosting Meet the Press rather than moderating a debate. How else to describe him trying to "zing" Kilgore on hypotheticals? That's not what a moderator does.

As I read elsewhere, that's completely unprofessional and outside of his mandate as moderator.

Frankly, the whole exchange was absurd, and Kilgore was exactly correct. Russert's premise was faulty. The question about abortion was a hypothetical, because he was asking about a bill that is currently illegal. It's legal to cut taxes, so that's not an unreasonable issue to take a stand on.

Unfortunately, the pro-Kaine crowd, and the assembled media who were looking to crucify Kilgore jumped on it. But Kilgore is right. There is ZERO chance that the next Governor would have to make such a decision on an abortion bill (even with 2 Bush nominees, the Court is still 5-4 in favor of Roe...and a case would have to get to the court, Roe would have to be overturned, and a bill would have to reach the desk in the next four years. Supreme Court jurisprudence doesn't work that quickly).

There is a very real chance he'd have to make that decision on a spending bill.

This whole thing is ridiculous, and the media is complicit.

Posted by: Sam Green | September 15, 2005 10:22 PM

Sam Green: Oh puh-leeze!

1) According to the AP, the debate rules said that the moderator, Tim Russert, had considerable freedom in his questioning (http://www.timesdispatch.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=RTD%2FMGArticle%2FRTD_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1031785042239&path=%21news%21vaapwire&s=1045855935241) The Kilgore campaign agreed to those rules, so for them to cry now is pretty pitiful.

2) Oooooh, big bad Timmy Russert forced Jerry Boy to use his brain, and Jerry Boy failed miserably. Well, thank goodness for that -- the time to discover that a would-be governor can't think for himself is BEFORE the election.

3) Virginians should be thanking their lucky stars that Russert exposed Jerry's utter inability to think on his feet. Frankly, if it hadn't been for Tim Russert, it's possible no one would have been able to get Jerry off his script and expose him for the empty suit that he is.

4) If you think Tim Russert is biased towards Democrats, I strongly urge you to check out the commentary on DailyKos and other Democratic blogs over the past few years. Basically, most Democrats think Tim Russert bends over double-backwards to prove that he is "fair and balanced" to Republicans, so he goes easier on them and much harder on Democrats. I've seen this with my own eyes, many times, and felt strongly like throwing stuff at the TV set.

Posted by: NotScottHowell | September 16, 2005 07:24 AM

Jerry Kilgore's entire campaign seems to be about trying to avoid anyone in Virginia knowing what he stands for. He doesn't want to be seen by voters, heard by voters, or questioned by anyone. Who's side is he really on? He's taken over $60,000 from Pat Robertson. He's taken money from Halliburton. He's opposed civil rights protections for the disabled, gay & lesbian people, women, racial minorities at Virginia Tech, and immigrants... and attacked Tim Kaine for this Catholic faith.

It's time for him to answer questions about what he really believes beyond just empty platitudes.

Posted by: NoVaGuy | September 16, 2005 08:39 AM

Will Jerry be this big of a cry-baby if he gets elected? Let's hope we never find out.

Russert's question was well within the rules and his discretion as moderator of the debate. Funny thing is, being a public servant involves lots of rules: rules about wire-tapping, rules about enforcing election law (even if the suspect is your mother), and rules about lobbying for out of state corporations to get fat pork contracts.

There are lots of rules and laws to keep track of in Virginia Jerry, are you sure you're up to it?

Posted by: J.C. Wilmore | September 16, 2005 10:12 AM

Will Jerry be this big of a cry-baby if he gets elected? Let's hope we never find out.

Russert's question was well within the rules and his discretion as moderator of the debate. Funny thing is, being a public servant involves lots of rules: rules about wire-tapping, rules about enforcing election law (even if the suspect is your mother), and rules about lobbying for out of state corporations to get fat pork contracts.

There are lots of rules and laws to keep track of in Virginia Jerry, are you sure you're up to it?

Posted by: J.C. Wilmore | September 16, 2005 10:14 AM

All Tim Russert did was follow the rules that both campaigns agreed to follow.

Just the fact that the Kilgore campaign would attack Russert says a lot about his staff and himself.

This is just another example of how Republicans only want to talk to voters in a "controlled" environment. Kilgore has been using this techique since the beginning of the campaign.

I guess he "always has and always will" too.

Posted by: Brian Patton | September 16, 2005 10:24 AM

It is ridiculous for Kilgore to attack Russert. It is an obvious attempt to divert attention from Jerry Kilgore's poor performance, and a lame attempt at that.

Russert is a respected journalist through out the world, and he wanted to pick on Jerry Kilgore? I don't think so.

Kilgore lacks leadership skills - quite evident in the debate and his political career.

Debates give us a glimpse of how the candidates will react in high-pressure situations. Jerry Kilgore failed. He is not a leader.

If Jerry Kilgore wants to blame the moderator for his inability to answer questions, what does that tell us about his ability to be a governor? Nothing will be his responsibility.

A quality of a good leader is to accept responsibility for their decisions, and the outcome of those decisions - Good or Bad. Kilgore is unable to do that!

Tim Kaine was the obvious winner of the debate, and if Kilgore wants to blame someone for his poor performance it should be himself - not Tim Russert.

Posted by: Jen | September 16, 2005 10:34 AM

To suggest in any way that Mr. Kilgore was unfairly sandbagged during the debate is simply ridiculous. Anyone who rises to the ranks of Attorney General of the Commonwealth should know how to think on his feet. The bottom line is that Mr. Kilgore was asked a direct question about an issue on which he has expressed strong convictions and he choked. It couldn't be answered by one of the handful of bromides he had prepared.

Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh once said, "The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet." Mr. Kilgore hit a fair number of sour notes on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Mr. Kaine demonstrated once again that he not only understands the duties and responsibilities of Governor, he appreciates that his own personal beliefs shouldn't get in the way of them.

Posted by: Muserella | September 16, 2005 11:21 AM

Russert was much tougher on Kilgore, for one simple reason: he desperately deserved it.

Kilgore wouldn't answer a single question put to him through the entire debate and it was insulting.

If Kaine had been as spiteful, divisive, and shifty, Russert would have crushed him too.

Thing is Kaine, actually answered the questions he was asked.

What does it tell you about how a guy will be when he's Governor if he won't answer a simple question.

Does that inspire faith in you? Does it make you think, "hey, after he's elected, he'll suddenly get really articulate and honest."

Kilgore flat out lied and said there was a connection between Al-qaeda and Hispanic Streetgangs.

Kilgore flat out lied and said Jim Gilmore left no deficit.

Kilgore isn't stupid, he's playing tough politics and then whining when he gets called on it. That's called cowardice

We don't know much about Jerry Kilgore, but we do know that he won't answer question, and that he WILL LIE...

oh! also we know that his office and his family have been targets of criminal investigations that resulted in indictments.

Does Kilgore have the character to inspire our faith? No way!

Does he have the character to inspire our votes? The more people know about Jerry Kilgore the less likely they will support him.

Maybe that's why he doesn't want to answer any questions.

Posted by: Arlington Dem | September 16, 2005 11:51 AM

Everyone seems to be ignoring the fact that debates are already practiced and scripted with answers being formulated before the question is even asked! I think that it is great to ping BOTH candidates to really understand their motives and beliefs. Campaigns are too professional and polished to get real answers, to real questions! Kudos to Russert, he can come to the Commonwealth anyday!

Posted by: Interested Observer | September 16, 2005 01:03 PM

The problem for the "it's a bad question" crowd is that Boiling and McDonnell have both answered it before without hesitation or waffling. Either you support criminalizing abortion or you don't. Does Jerry? The pro-life crowd can't be sure anymore, because unlike every other major Republican in the state, Jerry won't say.

Posted by: Frank | September 16, 2005 01:56 PM

Tim Russert is a very smart liberal- leaning argumentative moderator. They got exactly what they hired. I remember when the Clinton White House was embarrassed and shocked by some of the comments made by Don Imus (I believe at a WH correspondents dinner.) Didn't anyone realize what Imus did on the radio every day when they invited him to speak?

If they simply wanted someone to read the questions and follow up in a nice manner, they should have hired the polite but very intelligent Sabato.

I will probably vote for Kilgore mainly because taxes will probably be lower with him than Kaine. But Kilgore was definitely dodging the abortion question and I think Russert was right to call him on it. I was shocked at Kilgore's poor performance and I think it puts the race back in play.

Posted by: Dan McDermott | September 16, 2005 02:05 PM

If Kilgore can't stand the heat, then he should get out of the kitchen. If he is unable to withstand questioning during debate, what kind of leader will he be when real crises emerge and demand far more on-the-spot decision-making?

Posted by: Callin It Like It Is | September 16, 2005 02:45 PM

To the McDermott fellow, you will still vote for him b/c your taxes will be lower. You will vote for someone who will do your state a huge injustice just so you can benefit in one regard? Hummm...I heard this before. Oh it was the national election in 2004 when airheads voted for their version of good morals as opposed to their economic security, national security, healthcare, education, etc.

We're too worried about what others do in their bedroom. If we stop, perhaps this country can wake up from this dream we're in.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 16, 2005 03:17 PM

I love reading the posts of Liberal Democrats, their arguments always seem to degenerate into personal attacks. I wish people could view politics in a more intelligent manner and address issues fairly instead of this horrible bias and extreme idealogy we see in the press and on the left.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 16, 2005 03:48 PM

Maybe Jerry should look to run for head of his trailer park association at home ... then, he wouldn't have to worry about wearing those "falsies."

Posted by: TG | September 16, 2005 03:54 PM

I love reading the posts of conservative Republicans; their arguments always seem to go in circles of nonsense. I wish people could view politics in a more intelligent manner and address issues fairly instead of this horrible bias and extreme idealogy we see in the press and on the right.

Plagiarized from Anonymous above... Is it you, Delegate (Dick) Black?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 16, 2005 08:47 PM

Unfortunetly the Republicans are afraid to take a stand that may PO a liberal.

Of course the media bias is obvious - Warner has recived no flack at all from liberal media for signing pro gun rights bills - they don't want to admit it is one reason he got in office and still has a political future in spite of his tax increases.

Posted by: Observer | September 16, 2005 09:48 PM

Tim Russert does not suffer fools gladly.

And unfortunately, if the fool fits, you must indict.

Posted by: MImi Schaeffer | September 17, 2005 09:54 PM

One more observation, I just love the name calling.

Don't call me sweetie, honey, or liberal.

Just argue your point, unless of course, you have none.

Posted by: Mimi Schaeffer | September 17, 2005 10:06 PM

I swear this will be my final post.

If you want another empty shirt should the Commonwealth ever be faced with terrorism, a Category 5 hurricane, or any major catastrophe, then vote for Smiley, keep adding more capital crimes, ask questions later, just not in person (you know, the quacking voice) Kilgore.

Please tell me again why Kilgore wants to destroy DNA evidence for Roger Coleman, a person who swore to his innocence up to the day he was executed.

"An innocent man is going to be murdered tonight. When my innocence is proven, I hope Americans will realize the injustice of the death penalty as all other civilized countries have."

- Roger Keith Coleman's last words moments before the state of Virginia put him to death May 20, 1992

Posted by: Mimi Schaeffer | September 17, 2005 10:15 PM

Check out the "Governing Mag:.." thread for some additional serious questions concerning Kilgore's values.

If Kilgore is already showing as Attorney General that he wants to destroy DNA evidence, ignore RACIST ACTIONS and attempt to dismantle the Americans with Disabilities Act (signed into law by George H.W. Bush!), what will he do as Governor?

We can't let it happen. ELECT KAINE.

Posted by: Soccer Mom | September 17, 2005 10:28 PM

"Russert's premise was faulty. The question about abortion was a hypothetical, because he was asking about a bill that is currently illegal. It's legal to cut taxes, so that's not an unreasonable issue to take a stand on."

This is the best defense I've seen of Kilgore's blunder, but you're making a distinction that was not made when Kilgore said he wouldn't answer a hypothetical question. Kilgore was trying to bluff his way through a politically sensitive matter, but when the subject area moved to safer territory like taxes, he pounced. The fact is Kilgore doesn't have it all going on upstairs. He's a knee-jerk ideologue, and Russert's questioning brought that out regardless of any charges of bias. If this is our next governor it seems we'll have another Bush on our hands.

Posted by: Omar | September 19, 2005 07:21 PM

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