first of all, the chicago tribune brought the subject up, not russert (granted, russert turned it into an operatic list of twists and turns.) during the entire first part of his answer (as belabored as it was) obama did not reject louis farrakhan's support. instead, he said things like "i did not solicit this support," "i obviously can't censor him" and "we're not doing anything, i assure you, formally, or informally, with minister farrakhan." what did we think, louis and barack were gonna have a tupperware party?
russert then asked if obama "rejected" farrakhan's endorsement. obama sputtered a bit. "well...tim. you know, i can't, uhhh, say to somebody that he can't say that he thinks i'm a good guy." (really? reagan had no problem telling the kkk to take a hike in 1980.) "i've been very clear in my denounciation of him and his past statements..." obama went on to say denouce or denounced another three, four times.
throughout this five minute back and forth, obama would not say he rejected farrakhan's support, even when russert himself asked pointedly, "do you reject it?" whatever you think about the difference between the two --- denouncing and rejecting -- obama wouldn't say it.
then senator clinton spoke up. one hoped she was going to take the high road, which she could have done by saying "something similar happened to me, here's what i did, so i understand what barack is dealing with here," letting us draw the line from she rejected objectionable support to he won't. instead, pushed by russert, she sounded petty trying to stress the difference between denouncing and rejecting.
russert then turned it over to obama, who coyly suggested that he didn't see the difference between denouncing and rejecting.
interesting that moments earlier, he clearly seemed to.
UPDATE 5:34 p.m. -- more blogger reaction to this moment, summed up nicely by andrew sullivan.