What Would Tyler Drumhiller Do?

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on February 23, 2011

Via Moe Lane, I am directed to Ace of Spades, which informs me that Donald Rumsfeld had an encounter with Andrea Mitchell that made the latter look really bad:

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A couple of points:

1. As noted at Ace of Spades, Rumsfeld is very effective in these interviews because he does what many others fail to do; he challenges the premises of questions. Time and again, Andrea Mitchell tries to frame a question a particular way so that Rumsfeld cannot help but look bad if he accepts the framing, and time and again, Rumsfeld re-frames, showing a superior command of facts in the process. This interview serves as a lesson to other public officials; when it is obvious that an interviewer is trying to unfairly sandbag you, be sure to challenge the premises of the interviewer’s questions, and set him/her and the public straight on the facts. Relatedly, it’s obvious that Mitchell thought Rumsfeld had his book ghostwritten for him, and that as a consequence, he didn’t know the details contained within the book. It is equally obvious that Rumsfeld in fact played a very active role in writing the book, and that he is consequently very well-informed regarding the book’s contents. I told you the man is smart.

2. While it was fun and fascinating watching Rumsfeld administer a verbal smackdown, the interview itself was awful. I account for the possibility that Andrea Mitchell was under instructions to fill the OlberVoid by being tough and mean, and by pushing the traditional anti-Rumsfeld talking points (which have this strange tendency of being undermined by a discussion of actual facts), but in the interests of edification, she might have allowed Rumsfeld to finish his answers instead of constantly trying to talk over him. It’s one thing to challenge Rumsfeld. It’s quite another to try to bully him; the latter approach does nothing to inform the viewer, though I grant the possibility that Mitchell was less interested in favorably impressing the public at large than she was in impressing the Daily Kos crowd MSNBC likes to cater to. Mitchell also might have tried to put away the faux exasperation that especially manifested itself when she threw up her hands in frustration merely because Rumsfeld asked her what she meant by “stovepiping” when it came to the handling of intelligence material. If Mitchell insists upon being a ham in interviews like these, it would especially behoove her to get her facts straight and prevent the likes of Rumsfeld from showing her up. As the interview turned out, she looked both preternaturally uninformed, in addition to being preternaturally rude.

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