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Every time I watch Meet the Press I’m reminded of the magnitude of the loss of Tim Russert. Yesterday’s program only reinforced that as an unprepared Tom Brokaw allowed Karl Rove’s claim that it was not the policy of the Bush administration to use Iraqi oil revenues to offset the cost of the war to go unchallenged. Here’s the exchange:

Brokaw’s next statement was, “Well, let’s talk about the insurgency.”

Here’s what Russert would have done. He would have been ready for Rove’s spin with this quote from the Washington Post by Bush’s deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz:

“The oil revenue of that country could bring between 50 and 100 billion dollars over the course of the next two or three years. We’re dealing with a country that could really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.”

Russert would have been ready with this, from Ari Fleischer’s press briefing in February of 2003:

“Well, the reconstruction costs remain a very — an issue for the future. And Iraq, unlike Afghanistan, is a rather wealthy country. Iraq has tremendous resources that belong to the Iraqi people. And so there are a variety of means that Iraq has to be able to shoulder much of the burden for their own reconstruction.”

That’s what a real journalist would have done, Mr. Brokaw.