'Nightly News' On Board with Putin's Business Bullying

July 7th, 2009 10:39 AM

TASS probably couldn't have done it better. And NBC correspondent Jim Maceda seemed to be channeling that Soviet Russia official state-run news agency in his glowing account of Russia Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's heavy-handed dealings with some small businesses. Putin was, he said, "combating Russia's deep recession hand-to-hand."

Maceda, in a July 6 "Nightly News" segment, spoke admiringly of Putin's evolution from bureaucrat to Russian president, and now Renaissance man.

"Over the past decade, Vladimir Putin's morphed into more roles than a Hollywood star," Maceda said. "From Boris Yeltsin's shy obedient yes-man to the imperious leader, the action man, bomber pilot, artist and lately the people's prime minister combating Russia's deep recession hand-to-hand - harassing a supermarket manager for marking up pork prices."

As Maceda reported, Putin's mere mentioning of prices being too high scared one manager into lowering them.

"'They're very high,' said Putin," Maceda explained. "‘It will be lower tomorrow,' was the quick reply."

But the most egregious example of Putin's brash-and-bully ‘em method involved a cement factory in Russia. Maceda failed to find anything wrong with Putin's magical ability to convince a private-sector plant manager to reopen a plant and rehire all the workers, even if there was no business.

"And this showdown at a cement factory near St. Petersburg," Maceda said. "When orders dried up, managers shut the plant laying off hundreds until Putin shamed the bosses, even tossing a pen and ordering one of them to sign a promise to rehire every worker. Now other towns are hoping for some of Putin's special attention."

The NBC foreign correspondent did suggest that the former KGB man wasn't acting solely from concern about consumers and workers.

"What's behind the populism?" Maceda said. "Some think Putin's already campaigning for the 2012 presidential election."

Still, while many consider Putin and his successor, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, to be the reason behind much of Russia's modern-day corruption, Maceda spoke as if the two have a commendable partnership running the country.

"Vladimir Putin seems to exert the same power and flair here from his offices in the so-called White House as he did here at his old address just a couple of miles down the Moscow River at the Kremlin," Maceda said. "Putin watchers say he's pleased with the new arrangement where Medvedev can hob-knob with influential leaders while he pulls all of the levers behind the scenes."