And You Thought Tim Russert Was Tough

Back in September, subscribers to Red Herring magazine's e-mail bulletin "The Red Eye" received a missive they probably weren't expecting. "Tony Perkins here with a special invitation," began the message. "As most Red Herring readers know, I've stuck my neck out early in the next presidential campaign by personally backing my friend Governor George W. Bush." Perkins, the magazine's founder and editor in chief, went on to invite readers to join "'Technology and Entertainment Entrepreneurs for George Bush,' a national grass-roots effort" that--the aforementioned description notwithstanding--already included such tech industry heavies as Floyd Kvamme, John Chambers, Jim Barksdale, Gregory Slayton, Michael Dell, and Tim Draper. Perkins also invited readers to attend a September 30 fundraiser or become "a really big Fish"--get it?--by "committing to raise $5,000."

After a number of subscribers complained of being spammed with a partisan fundraising appeal, Perkins issued an apology to the "Red Eye" list.

Fair enough. Everyone makes mistakes. But Perkins has a lot to learn: The December issue of Red Herring--best described as Vanity Fair for computer nerds, not a political magazine--featured a prominent interview with George W. conducted by ... Tony Perkins. Actually, "interview" is far too generous a word. "Socratic dialogue" is more accurate. Some of Perkins's questions to Bush include, "Why do you want to be president of the United States?", "Do you think you are going to win?", and "Define compassionate conservatism to us."

Perkins apparently felt uneasy enough to include a lengthy disclaimer in the introduction. First, "the editors" claim that Red Herring "wanted to present a balanced portrait of the Democratic and Republican candidates" but were stymied by the Bradley and Gore campaigns' refusal to do an interview. (We can't imagine why.) Then they write, "Although Tony Perkins, Red Herring's editor-in-chief, is a Bush supporter, Jason Pontin, the magazine's editor, accompanied Mr. Perkins to Austin and adopted a tone sufficiently querulous to satisfy the most partisan Gore supporter." The tough-minded Pontin came at Bush with a series of incisive, hard-hitting questions like, "Do you have a stance on Internet taxation?", "Should there be a moratorium?", and "Who is your favorite president?"

Eat your heart out, 60 Minutes.