When President Bush spoke live on the networks around 7:30 AM Eastern this morning, NBC News packaged its coverage as a "Special Report," meaning its NBC affiliates in the Central, Mountain, and Pacific time zones that hadn't started airing "Today" yet were showing this segment. The report ended only after Lauer had exchanged the latest liberal conventional wisdom with Tim Russert, appearing from the West Coast, who was pouring out pitchers of cold water.
Will it change things? "Probably not." Russert highlighted a piece of conversation with a White House aide cautioning that one day's euphoria over the capture of Saddam didn't change much. (Left out of that: whether Russert prodded the aide into saying it.) The "sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites continues, and, almost like clinging to a life preserver, that we've learned "things can turn dramatically worse in Iraq...within a moment's notice."
But didn't they just turn dramatically better in a moment's notice? This is where I would say that Russert doesn't seem to be in charge of the news at NBC, but in charge of the daily tone, the daily spin. Attending all those sporting events with James Carville has him stuck in anti-Bush spin-doctor mode. Maybe Zarqawi's death isn't the start of a spin -- but maybe it could be the stopping of one: the liberal media's daily drumbeat of hopelessness. Here's the transcript from MRC's Geoff Dickens:
Matt Lauer: "Tim Russert is NBC's Washington bureau chief and of course moderator of Meet the Press. Tim good morning to you and boy the timing couldn't be better for the President."
Tim Russert: "Very, very needed Matt. The big word I think the President used today, Matt, patience. He realized that the American people were losing patience with the war in Iraq and there was a lot of concern as to the patience of the Iraqi people and their inability of the new government to get organized. Now will this change things overnight? Probably not. But psychologically, emotionally the President hopes he has bought some time. He is very, very interested, obviously in getting U.S. troops reduced by the midterm elections but one White House adviser said to me, Matt, remember two-and-a-half years ago when Saddam Hussein was captured, we all celebrated, it was a joyous day but it didn't significantly change things on the ground. So they're cautiously optimistic. They think they're gonna buy some time both strategically and politically."
Lauer: "Yeah but the criticism over these last several years Tim, that you just alluded to. I mean first people saying, 'Why can't you catch bin Laden? Why can't you catch al-Zarqawi?' Some people saying, 'You still haven't caught everyone, the remnants of the Taliban in Afghanistan.' Clearly they're able to trumpet this but as you heard from the tone of the President, remember in his news conference recently he said, 'Hey I made a mistake in some of my cocky attitude and, and, and, and words I used in the past.' Clearly he wasn't about to make that mistake again."
Russert: "Absolutely. You could see caution running through his comments. Matt we hear these words of 'turning point,' 'tipping point.' That's what people are hopeful this morning in the administration....
Stop. Now when you here this chatter, isolated from the rest of the segment, you have to ask: why are you only hopeful this is a turning point for victory -- if you're in the administration? Doesn't everyone want a turning point toward victory, Tim?....or don't they? Russert continued:
That this is an indication that the Iraqi people who, frankly some of them were enabling the insurrection, are now willing to cast their lot with the new government. But foreign fighters are not the only threat that confront Iraq. There is this sectarian violence between the Sunnis and the Shiites and that is separate above the killing of Zarqawi we're witnessing today."
Lauer: "Tim, in the last couple of days we've been hearing a lot of talk from the White House on subjects like gay marriage. We've heard the Senate take up flag-burning. Clearly an attempt to bring the base back. Now that they have this major accomplishment under their belt, the death of al-Zarqawi, might they be talking about, and by the way the new government positions being filled, might they be talking more about Iraq in the coming days and weeks?"
Russert: "Absolutely. The President's announcement that he's bringing his war cabinet together at Camp David and then meeting via teleconference with the Iraqi war cabinet. There will be a new emphasis on Iraq. But Matt again that can be very dangerous because this is very, very good news today but as we have learned over the last three years things can turn dramatically worse in Iraq in a, within a moment's notice."
Lauer: "Tim Russert coming in for us from the West Coast this morning. Tim thank you very much."