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Hillary Clinton blows name of next Russian president

February 27, 2008 |  1:52 am

One of the things that is driving Hillary Clinton and her husband and their latest presidential campaign absolutely crazy is the favoritism of the media they see directed toward her opponent, Barack Obama.

This was captured last weekend in the opening episode of "Saturday Night Live" on a mock panel with actor reporters openly admitting they were "in the tank" for Obama, pressing Clinton with difficult questions while asking Obama if he was comfortable, with the followup question, was he sure he was comfortable.

Clinton couldn't hold it in any longer early in Tuesday night's debate in Cleveland. "Well," she said when asked the first two questions first, "could I just point....

out that, in the last several debates, I seem to get the first question all the time? And I don't mind. You know, I'll be happy to field them, but I do find it curious. And if anybody saw 'Saturday Night Live,' you know, maybe we should ask Barack if he's comfortable and needs another pillow."

So naturally late in the Ohio debate when it came time for the trick question, the kind of TV interview question that got George W. Bush so much unwanted, embarrassing and prolonged attention in 1999 when he couldn't name the president of Pakistan, Tim Russert claimed later that he looked at both candidates Tuesday night as if to say, 'Who wants this one?' And Clinton seemed to respond. So he asked Clinton first.

The question concerned Russia's so-called presidential elections Sunday to pick a successor to Vladimir Putin. Russert wanted to know what Clinton could tell the world about this new president.

In her 204-word response Clinton worked in how he'd been hand-picked by Putin, how Russia's political opposition has been suppressed and how she'd been critical of the Bush administration on a wide variety of issues regarding Russia.

Then, Russert pounced: "Who will it be? Do you know his name?"

Chances are you don't know his name. But then you're not running for president. We'll never know if the name was known by Obama, who is running for president, because Russert chose to put Clinton on the spot. And she blew it. Although the official transcript partially covers up her mistake. It has Clinton replying, "Medvedev -- whatever."

What a tape actually shows the senator said was, "Meh, uhm, Me-ned-vadah -- whatever."

Russert then turned to Obama, who during a forum last summer referred to the president of Canada which, of course, has no president; it has a prime minister. "Do you know anything about him?" Russert asked.

Obama, who looked genuinely relieved not to have gotten the Russian name question, took the easy way out. "Well," he said in his 163-word response, "I think Senator Clinton speaks accurately about him..." and continued to also criticize the Bush administration.

Phew. On such chances do lasting voter impressions rest.

For the record, the all-but-certain about-to-be-elected new president of Russia is Dmitry Medvedev, not to be confused with Andrei Medvedev, the Ukrainian tennis player. But you knew that.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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