Is David Letterman now the best news interviewer on TV?
You can criticize Dave Letterman for a lot of things -- I'll admit, as a fellow Indiana native and friend of his sister, Gretchen, I'm more than a little biased in his favor -- but there are few TV personalities who are better at grilling politicians who need a little searing media attention.
The latest fine example of this technique: Letterman's most excellent questioning last night of recently impeached Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. As the host himself noted, over the past week or so, everyone from MSNBC host Rachel Maddow to View host Barbara Walters tried to get under the helmet-haired politician's unwavering insistence that he is the victim in the scandal that bounced him out of office.
But Letterman teed up the questions that most needed to be asked, including "Why are you here?" And, given the long record of criminal behavior in the Illinois Governor's office "is it something in the oath of office you guys take?" And my favorite: "The more you talked and the more you repeated your innocence, the more I said to myself, 'Well, this guy's guilty.'"
I've said this before about Jon Stewart; the power of non-journalists in these situations is that they don't have to pretend they don't have a point of view, and they can ask questions where the answer is almost beside the point. Letterman is essentially saying over and over to Blago, "I think you're a weasel," in a way that few traditional news anchors could manage without serious criticism.
For proof, consider another great line: Blago ends his typical spiel with the line "and at the appropriate time, I'll have a chance to prove (my innocence)."
Letterman's retort: "So why not wait until the appropriate time?" If the response of Letterman's audience is any indication, Blago's got one heck of a mountain to climb.
Check it out for yourself: