Friday, October 17, 2008

McCain Challenged by Lettermen

Because John Stewart and Steven Colbert spend so much time dissecting the news (which is, of course, the basis for both of their shows), they typically get all of the credit for challenging and skewering the politicians. They do a great job, and they certainly deserve the accolades that they have received.

The guy who gets lost in the shuffle, though, is David Lettermen. He does not toss softball questions at politicians, and I think he actually does a better (and tougher) interview than either Stewart or Colbert. He has been skewering the McCain/Palin ticket since John McCain skipped out on his program a few weeks ago. McCain had stated that he had to head back to Washington to deal with the economic meltdown, which wasn't exactly the truth. Instead of leaving town, McCain remained in New York for an interview with Katie Couric. Lettermen picked up the feed and has been poking fun at him ever since.

Well, last night, McCain finally fulfilled his obligation, and Lettermen jostled with him a bit before getting down to business. (He even had Keith Olbermann standing by in case McCain didn't show up again). Now, Lettermen is a really smart guy, and he uses two things to his advantage: 1) real news shows don't ask tough questions anymore and 2) the perception is that he is just a host of a late night comedy and entertainment program, so how hard can it be?

Essentially, McCain was lulled into complacency. He was given an opportunity to state his case, and Lettermen was fine to allow him to do that. You could see it coming, though. McCain has had a habit of late of bringing up William Ayers as a way of knocking his opponent Barack Obama down a peg. It hasn't worked. This is partially because Ayers has transformed himself into a respectable member of the community, but the real reason the issue hasn't gained traction is that, with everything in the country falling to pieces after 8 years of Republican political schemes, no one cares (nor should they, but that's another story).

Sure enough, as the interview continued, McCain tried to turn Ayers into a controversial issue. Of course he was led there by Lettermen, who set him up perfectly after challenging McCain's pick of Palin to serve as his VP. (He also asked why she keeps saying that Obama pals around with terrorists, which clearly isn't true). McCain took the bait, and the sly smile on Lettermen's face said it all. He pounced all over McCain's continuing need to bring up Ayers by asking the Senator about his relationship with G. Gordon Liddy, who served almost 5 years for burglary and admitted to plotting to kill a journalist. McCain tried to brush it off, but Lettermen persisted in defining McCain's relationship to Liddy as current and relevant, which is something the mainstream news organizations have failed to do.

It was a great moment, and you can watch the full interview at Lettermen's site. It's a gem of a interview.

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