Russert Watch Preview

Update: Turns out that our man Tim is going to be taking another week off, with the ever-chipper David Gregory sitting in. So here is my updated preview of this week’s Meet the Press:

After turning the no-tough-question-left-unasked chores over to Andrea Mitchell last week, Tim Russert will have David Gregory filling in for him this Sunday. Let’s hope he uses the extra time off for a little soul-searching, and will take the opportunity upon his return to finally come clean about his still-unexplained involvement in Plamegate.

Now, I don’t mean to gnaw on a bone (actually, I do mean to gnaw on a bone -- isn’t that what blogging is all about?) but I still think Russert owes it to his viewers to put himself in the Meet the Press hot seat. Or, if not, then at least yell “bullshit!” on the air, get himself suspended, and go into hiding. But as long as Russert continues to remain visible, he needs to fess up about the mystery everyone in Washington is talking about. If Scooter Libby did in fact tell Pat Fitzgerald that he first learned of Valerie Plame’s identity from Russert, and Russert continues to stand by his August 2004 claim that “he did not know Ms. Plame’s name or that she was a CIA operative and that he did not provide that information to Mr. Libby”, the inescapable question is: Is one of them lying or can both of these things be true? Could Russert have just told Libby that “Joe Wilson’s CIA agent wife” was the one who suggested her hubby be sent to Niger? In that case, as Tom Maguire puts it: “No name, no ‘operative’ -- and no comment from NBC”.

So, come on, Tim: Did you or did you not -- in any fashion -- discuss Plame with Libby? And if you had that info, who had given it to you? Two simple questions. Won’t take up too much air time. In the meantime, we'll tune in to this week's show... which actually looks like a good one, with Sen. Russ Feingold coming on to discuss his bold decision to be the first U.S. Senator to offer a specific target date -- Dec. 31, 2006 -- for all U.S. troops to be withdrawn from Iraq, followed by Trent Lott talking about Iraq and the harsh words he has for Bill Frist and others in his new book. Gregory will also discuss Iraq with two former advisors of the Coalition Provisional Authority -- Larry Diamond and Dan Senor -- who see the White House’s handling of the war very, very differently.

So, after providing us with some answers, here are a few of the questions I’d like to hear Gregory ask his guests:

“Sen. Feingold, you’ve said that you decided to propose the Dec. 2006 deadline after holding 15 town hall meetings this month and being met with a wave of public disenchantment with the war in Iraq... yet many of your fellow Democrats -- including a number who might, like yourself, be considering a run for the White House in 2008 -- continue to side with the president’s contention that setting a deadline would make it easier for the insurgents to wait us out. Are these other Democrats out of touch with the concerns of the American people? Have they been spending too much time inside the Beltway -- or on Martha’s Vineyard?”

“Sen. Lott, in a speech this week you said that when it came to Bosnia and Kosovo, you often asked President Clinton, ‘What’s the exit strategy? Why are we doing all the heavy lifting? Why do we have to always be on the point of the spear?’ And you suggested that you should be asking President Bush the same set of questions. So why haven’t you?”

“A follow-up: In that same speech, you expressed the hope that the president will begin developing an exit strategy and said that ‘within the next six to nine months’ we’re going to reach a point where we basically put the fate of Iraq in the hands of the Iraqi people, saying to them you can ‘govern yourselves or you can go on killing each other like you have for 2,000 years’. Six to nine months? Are your GOP colleagues beginning to fear that Iraq is going to be a losing issue for your party in 2006?"

For Diamond or Senor: “Can either of you tell us where that missing $9 billion the Coalition Provisional Authority can’t account for might have gone? As you know, there are American soldiers who could use armor for their vehicles and American vets who could use the benefits.”

Over to you now, Russert Watchers... post your questions in the comments section.