Shuster's Grotesque 'Gotcha' Game Exploits American Soldier Killed in Iraq

Does it get much lower than this?

After first extolling the "F--- Bush" headline, MSNBC's David Shuster, substituting for Tucker Carlson today, later engaged in a grotesque game of "gotcha," exploiting an Amercan soldier killed in Iraq to make his partisan point.

Chatting with Newsweek's Richard Wolffe and MSNBC analyst Craig Crawford, talk turned to the controversy surrounding the editorial in the Colorado State student newspaper headlined "Taser This: F--- Bush" [f-word spelled out in headline].

Wolffe went first, and was patently delighted by the incident. With a hearty grin, he observed . . .

RICHARD WOLFFE: I love free speech! I actually think "taser this" is a great headline, they didn't need to have the second half of it. Look, it was a gross overreaction from the police and a terrible event [the reaction, not the headline]. Student newspapers, college newspapers, like to get attention. They did a great job.

Crawford had a more traditional take.

CRAIG CRAWFORD: I think both sides really undercut their arguments when they engage in these sort of ad hominem things, insulting and cursing. What does that add? And unfortunately, the big boys and girls, here in Washington, the way they argue and bicker back and forth and call each other names, really invites this sort of thing around the country and I think it's sick and has poisoned our public politics in so many ways and it's not surprising to see some university kids doing this.

That's when Shuster lamented that the angry students didn't take things further.

DAVID SHUSTER: The issue that I have is -- I think it's great, I think they should say whatever they want in their editorials -- but likewise if they feel that passionately about it, if college students are that passionate about it, well, what sort of demonstrations and protests are they having at a place like Colorado State University? Because if all they're doing are a bunch of kids that work in the newspaper coming up with some funny things they can put in the editorial and they're not out there carrying signs -- for or against President Bush, regardless of what their politics are [yeah right] - that to me is a hollowness in college students which I think is very different with this war then of course what we saw in Vietnam.

Wolffe evinced a similar nostalgia for the protests of yore.

WOLFFE: A big difference. The passions are clearly there, but blogging, writing college paper headlines is not the same as a street protest. you're absolutely right.

SHUSTER: Richard Wolffe, I love it when you agree with me!

The official MSNBC entry for Shuster describes him as a "correspondent." Perhaps the network should amend it to add "agent provocateur."

Later, Shuster engaged in a particularly despicable game of "gotcha" with Republican congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. The ostensible topic was Move.on's "General Betray Us" ad, but out of nowhere, Shuster sprung this.

SHUSTER: Let's talk about the public trust. You represent of course a district in western Tennessee. What was the name of the last soldier from your district who was killed in Iraq?

MARSHA BLACKBURN: The name of the last soldier killed in Iraq from my district? I do not know.

SHUSTER: OK, his name was Jeremy Bohannon. He was killed August the ninth, 2007. How come you didn't know the name?
BLACKBURN: You know, I do not know why I did not know the name. We make contact with the families that are in our district, and when you have a major military post you are very sensitive to this and sensitive to working with those families and that is something that my staff and I do daily. Our district director is a gentleman who has served in the U.S. Army and currently serves in the National Guard, and we do everything that we possibly can do to assist those families. We are very appreciative of the sacrifice --

SHUSTER: Well, you weren't appreciative enough to know the name of this young man, he was 18 years old who was killed, yet you can say chapter and verse what goes on with the New York Times and MoveOn.org.

Blackburn went on to detail the extensive outreach efforts she makes to the military people and their families in her district, but Shuster was implacable.

SHUSTER: You do stay in touch with these military families, but again, I still think it's a little bit surprising that you didn't know the name of this last soldier killed in Iraq who's only 18 years old yet you do know so much about the MoveOn.org ad and the tactics you didn't like.

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.