I think that breaking down Russert's Wright/Farrakhan questioning helps illuminate how truly bizarre it is:
1. The title of Obama's book, "The Audacity of Hope," came from a sermon
delivered by Jeremiah Wright. Wright is Obama's pastor.
2. Wright is the "head" of United Trinity Church.
3. Wright said that Louis Farrakhan "epitomizes greatness."
4. Wright went with Farrakhan in 1984 to visit Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.
5. Farrakhan has said that Judaism is a "gutter religion."6. Wright said
that when Obama's political opponents found out about the Libya visit, Obama's
Jewish support would dry up "faster than a snowball in Hell."
Russert's question is then "What do you do to assure Jewish Americans... you are
consistent with issues regarding Israel and not in any way suggesting that
Farrakhan epitomizes greatness."
The first question about Farrakhan—and
Russert's insistence on mentioning Farrakhan's views regarding Judaism after
Obama had already denounced Farrakhan's bigotry—was all foreplay
leading up to this masterstroke in which Russert synthesizes the six discrete
facts into a knockout punch of innuendo and guilt by association: perhaps Obama
thinks that Louis Farrakhan, the man Obama explicitly denounced not one
minute before, is the very epitome of greatness.
All of the stuff about going to Libya, Farrakhan's "gutter religion" comment, and Jewish supporting drying up like a snowball in hell—that was all totally unnecessary to reach the ultimate question, but wasn't it fun?
This is noxious, is it not? Here's Josh Marshall's post. Barnett Rubin has more bashing Russert on the debate, and Matt Yglesias has on old Column entitled "The Unbearable Inanity of Time Russert".
Also note Hillary's terrible addendum. For a second, it seemed like she was about to say something worthwhile, but then it turned out she was just trying to make the smear stick. Obama diffused it well, though.