Luke Russert, son of the late Tim Russert, appeared as a correspondent on Wednesday's "Today" show to tout the technological superiority of the Barack Obama campaign and its "online political revolution." Co-host Meredith Vieira pronounced the 23-year-old's reporting "terrific," but really the segment was just another puff piece on liberals such as Obama and Bill Clinton. Regarding the latter, Russert recounted meeting the ex-president at the Denver Democratic convention and being asked by Clinton how his Senator wife's speech went. Russert replied, "Well, judging from the crowd, pretty damn good."
The bulk of the segment featured Russert interviewing Jayron Finan, a new supporter of the Illinois senator and a Democratic delegate. Russert explained "Inspired by Obama's stand against the war and his less confrontational political style, she visited his website and got involved." Continuing to repeat talking points and cliches, he added, "As she heads to the convention hall, Jayron believes that bringing new blood to the political process is the best way to bring about change."
NBC co-host Matt Lauer appeared awed at the tech savvy Obama campaign. He marveled, "It's amazing. Barack Obama really does seem to have embraced technology and the internet even when you talk about text messaging, the announcement that Joe Biden would be his running mate." Of course, that text message actually came at 3am on the morning of August 23, a few hours after it had leaked to the media.
Additionally, in a lone voice of dissent, political analyst and Republican campaign veteran Mike Murphy was featured in a clip. He observed, "Well, this was President Howard Dean's plan, too. You know, the magic of the internet is going to swamp regular politics and it didn't happen."
At the end of the segment, the young Russert described his encounter with President Clinton: "I was in the hallway, managed to avoid the Secret Service. I got underneath the Secret Service hand line there and I talked to him. And he goes, 'How did my girl do? How did my girl do?'" It was at this point Russert said he replied, "'Well, judging from the crowd, pretty damn good.' And he says to me, 'She knocked it out of the park. Home run. Home run. I'm so proud of her.' So, you could obviously see a very jubilant ex-president walking the halls here in Denver."
A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:43am on August 27, follows:
MATT LAUER: We're going to have to have much more on that coming up, and we'll also hear what former president Bill Clinton had to say to the newest member of the NBC News political team, Tim Russert's son, Luke, Meredith. We look forward to hearing from him.
MEREDITH VIEIRA: Yeah, I've been watching some of his coverage. It's been terrific.
LAUER: And welcome back to Denver and the home of the Democratic National Convention. According to a recent study, six and a half million people between the ages of 18 and 29 actually voted during the 2008 primary season. That is nearly double the number of young voters who participated back in 2000. Following in his father's footsteps, NBCs Luke Russert is covering Decision 2008 with us and he found out that the Obama campaign has harnessed the power of the internet in ways that could change the face of politics.
LUKE RUSSERT: On a quiet street in North Seattle, there's an outpost of Barack Obama's online political revolution. 30-year-old kindergarten teacher Jayron Finan is one of more than one million members of My.BarackObama.com. How politically active were you before this campaign?
FINAN: Oh, gosh. It's funny. Four years ago, I was watching the Democratic convention. I had know idea who those people were standing by the state signs. I had no idea what a delegate was.
RUSSERT: And now she's one of them. Packing her bags with her husband, Danny, who is an Iraq war veteran, and coming to Denver. Inspired by Obama's stand against the war and his less confrontational political style, she visited his website and got involved.
FINAN: And I saw that you could create a profile. You could find meetings. You could even make phone calls throughs the website.
RUSSERT: Facebook has 70 million members and Chris Hughes, one of the developers, was hired by the Obama campaign to bring the power of social networking to My.BarackObama.com.
CHRIS HUGHES (Facebook): You know, people can come online and they can search for an event that's happening near them. You just put in your zip code. You find events with a couple clicks and then you go out and show up on Saturday morning to a real-life event.
RUSSERT: And that's the key. Turning online interest into meeting that created volunteers and precinct captains in those critical early caucuses. It has also raised more than $20 million for the campaign.
HUGHES: The goal was never numbers driven. And it's still not numbers driven. It was much more about providing to the excited people out there on the ground the tools to get organized in their own communities.
RUSSERT: What's at stake? A recent NBC News poll found that Obama holds nearly a 20-point lead over McCain with voters 18 through 34. But among all voters older than that, McCain has a one-point lead. And more older voters vote. So, every young voter, like Jayron, counts.
MIKE MURPHY (NBC News political analyst): Well, this was President Howard Dean's plan, too. You know, the magic of the internet is going to swamp regular politics and it didn't happen.
RUSSERT: As she heads to the convention hall, Jayron believes that bringing new blood to the political process is the best way to bring about change.
FINAN: If we want to win, if we want to take our country back, it has to be, like, people like me who have never done anything like this before.
LAUER: And Luke Russert, good morning. Good to have you here.
RUSSERT: Thanks for having me, Matt.
LAUER: It's amazing. Barack Obama really does seem to have embraced technology and the internet even when you talk about text messaging, the announcement that Joe Biden would be his running mate. What are you seeing and what are young people seeing from the McCain side of things? Have they embraced it equally?
RUSSERT: No, they haven't. And it's something that's really shocked me. John McCain was popular amongst young people, is popular amongst young people. If you look at old articles from the primary season, a lot of kids said I'll support either Barack Obama or John McCain because they're both authentic. There's a niche for him to tap into. In 2000, he was one of the first candidates to use the internet to fund raise. They have a thing called McCain Space, but it has not nearly the traffic that My.BarackObama.com has.
LAUER: Is it to late? In the next two months can they improve that to the point it where at least it does draw some attention?
RUSSERT: I think you can always get bet better.
LAUER: Let me ask you about your experience here. First time on this side of the camera or in this role. What's it been like for you?
RUSSERT: Oh, it's been unbelievable. It's been a lot of hard work. We're putting in 12-13 hour days. But it's such a great job because no single day is the same. You're always out in the field covering new, important stories. You always get producers in your ear telling you have to wake up at 3:45 in the morning to be here on the "Today" show and you're happy to do it. Yeah, getting used to it.
LAUER: Which you can get used to that. You had one of those moments after Senator Clinton addressed the convention. You actually ran into former President bill Clinton. What was the encounter like? What did he say to you?
RUSSERT: I did. I was in the hallway, managed to avoid the Secret Service. I got underneath the Secret Service hand line there and I talked to him. And he goes, 'How did my girl do? How did my girl do?' And I said, 'Well, judging from the crowd, pretty damn good.' And he says to me, 'She knocked it out of the park. Home run. Home run. I'm so proud of her.' So, you could obviously see a very jubilant ex-president walking the halls here in Denver.
LAUER: And you'll probably get a lot of attention this morning when you say you got underneath he Secret Service web. I'm sure they'll be talking to you about that. You know the expression, you gotta take the good with the bad? The good for me is that you're here. The bad is that it reminds me that your dad is not. But I'll take the good in this case.
RUSSERT: Well, thank you- You're very kind and I just want to say that Jayron, the lovely girl that was on that piece is expecting and we're announcing that on the "Today" show to her friends and family that she's expecting a child in March. So-
LAUER: Breaking news already.
RUSSERT: Congratulations to her.