Obama supporters are all atwitter. Now they really hate Big Pink. Apparently Obama supporters and those wishing to ingratiate themselves to those incense burners are unhappy with our show of great restraint and politeness yesterday.
Yesterday, as we were ready to hit the “publish” button on our essential Rezko article (which we will publish on Monday barring some other unexpected news) the news of Tim Russert’s death hit the airwaves. We wrote a quick article with links to some of our previous writings regarding Russert. False tears for public show are not our style. A brutal assessment of Russert’s career and his destructive role in modern “journalism” would have been too impolite. A modicum of respect for Russert’s family, which we doubted was reading website postings anyway, demanded a restrained reaction. It was not appropriate to mention Russert’s wife, Maureen Orth, and her role in our political life either.
Our first thoughts were vivid speculations on poor Chris Matthews. Matthews, we knew, was in Rome. We imagined a cursing, rabid Matthews demanding airplane tickets back to 30 Rock to do battle for Russert’s job. What bad luck for Chris Matthews – to be in Rome when the job he always wanted had just opened up. We knew that soon David Gregory’s name would be dragged through the mud by aspirants to Russert’s throne. Not since the time of Rodrigo Borgia would so much effort be made to capture a throne.
Olberman too, we were sure, would squeeze out some tears on air in order to make himself a contender for Russert’s throne. Chuck Todd, David Shuster, contenders all and targets all. In days to come we will see the backstabbings at NBC and the entreaties to Jack Welch and Jeff Zucker flower.
The fight for Russert’s throne we knew would be particularly vicious. And have no doubt, it is a throne they are fighting for. The Big Media Party does not see itself as reporting the news, Big Media sees itself as shaping the news. Big Media considers itself The News. That is why we are witnessing an ostentatious wall-to-wall coverage on the airwaves of the death of someone most people barely knew or cared about.
The excuse for such wall-to-wall coverage of Tim Russert’s death is twofold. The first excuse comes from those that think he was a giant in the news business. The second excuse is that of familiarity – breakfast on Sunday with Tim.
Familiarity is a powerful lure. The great Soviet era writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn informs us that upon the news of Josef Stalin’s death, prisoners in the massive and far-reaching Gulag system of captivity actually wept. Those tortured and imprisoned for years, by Stalin, actually wept when “monkey eyes” died. For them, Joe Stalin was the only Soviet leader they had familiarity with, and they wept.
We understand the lure of familiarity. That sentiment is understandable. It also ties in with the familiarity we all have with death. The mourning of the family, the ritual calls to friends and relatives, the preparations for services before the earth reclaims its own. So we fully understand the need for restraint when discussing the death of someone many have “familiarity” with, of some limited kind.
However, there is already a deification regarding Russert taking place, which must be restrained too. Otherwise the full analysis of Russert’s career cannot be held back until it is more polite to do so.
Already, nonsense about modern “journalism” and Tim Russert is being spewed, and out of necessity, refuted. For example, there is this chunk of silliness from the ever silly Arriana Huff n’ Puff Post:
In an age of growing Political bias in cable and network news, Tim Russert filled a void that was becoming increasingly hollow. When we wake up tomorrow, and see a future without Russert’s candid pursuit of the truth, we may also see this: Be afraid, be very afraid. [snip]
When the Clinton Campaign launched their presidential ambitions in early 2007, they embraced a black & white brave new world, warning fellow Democrats “You’re either with us or against us.” It’s a mantra that might well be fitted for the majority of Americans in this millennium. You’re either left or right. Further explaining the rise of Independents, a group that cable news finds particularly hard to define, despite what Lou Dobbs thinks. Dobbs, who champions himself as a hard-nosed Independent, often comes off as one of the most opinionated talking heads on modern television.
Meet the Press is a show like none other. It will no doubt live on with a new host and a new life. But Russert’s shoes will be nearly impossible to fill. His questions were poignant and often surprising; pressing his guest to answer tough questions with answers they had not been able to prepare. No matter his guests’ political affiliation, he would pose a fearless question, and then remain emotionless when his guest fumbled the answer. He had a love for political journalism and he chose to enjoy the unpredictability of the process, rather than force it into any particular direction.
He will be sorely missed. Not just by his family, friends and fans… but also in the spirit of journalistic integrity. A term becoming looser in its definition as time goes on.
There is so much nonsense and garbage in that Huff n’ Puff piece that we will not bother to analyze it much. No mention there that it was Russert who sold the “gotcha” politics style of journalism and who turned political reporting into entertainment reporting. Well, we’ll let the commentors at Huff n’ Puff do the analysis:
My sympathy to Russert’s family, and I give him credit of many enviable virtues.
But a good journalist he was not. To lionize a person with that kind of power who interviewed key people, but threw softball at the heavies in the Bush Administration when they were lying us into the war, is not good journalism. Tim Russert was not objective, he was paving the way for his continued success on air by making those neocon liars look good.
Praise him for his great human virtues, but get off the “great journalist” spin.
You also know Tim Russert stood idly by while Claire Shipman and Ashleigh Banfield were canned for not following the GE pro-Bush line. His was a profile in cowardice when Americans needed skeptical journalists to help stave off the signal tragedy of this era, the Iraq war. Instead, he was what you could call “in-bedded (no, I don’t mean “embedded”).”
He blew a gasket when Arianna called him out and appointed himself NBC’s political censor by having her appearances canceled in what he evidently felt was a case of lese majeste.
I wonder if Russert is so praised both as a social nicety and empathy for his sheer mediocrity. Because it is the mediocre who comprise the largest share of people anywhere, the media included. Just as George W. Bush was sold as the president you could have a beer with (an inane meme Russert was happy to parrot), Russert positioned himself as an amiable working class guy (albeit one who made millions and who sent his son to private schools) who wasn’t intellectually threatening. .Meet the Press was little different from other food fight political shows. It had all the intellectual integrity of Reader’s Digest, that most mediocre of packagers of literature.
I think that Tim Russert had a great deal of personal charm, but I don’t think he did much to inform the public. He did very well-informed and energetic “gotcha” journalism that left the public as unenlightened as ever, and while I am sorry for his family and sorry that he died, I’m kind of glad that people like RobinSeattle are around to say, Get a grip and be a little more realistic. I don’t see anyone saying that Russert, like the journalists at Knight Ridder was among the lone voices really investigating the reasons for the Iraq War. Sure, it’s important to say that Tim Russert was personally a loving father, husband and friend, who died way too early, but he still didn’t do his job as a journalist. If he had, I doubt Bush and McCain would be praising him right now, so I too would like to see the eulogies be a little less exalted in their description of his journalistic accomplishments.
MSNBC is non-stop Tim Russert since yesterday. It is very bizarre. Making a corporation news guy into a hero . He was suppose to be giving us vital information that the rest of the world gets. But he sold out. God bless him and his family. I wish he could have been like Bill Moyers.
It’s like the world’s gone mad.
Russert sounds like a helluva guy to have known in person, but as a journalist, he epitomized the insider who plays by his own rules.
To refer to him, as so many have since his death 20 hours ago, as the best political journalist of his age, is simply an insult to those who seek truth, rather than their own aggrandizement.
Tim Russert was, as an NPR commentator put it yesterday, today’s equivalent of the back-room boss. He reserved his harshest assessments for those who did not share his often faulty assumptions, not those who answered without integrity.
Russert’s questioning of Vice President Cheney was a particular disappointment.
As Josh Marshall at TPM made clear repeatedly, Tim Russert’s debate questions were a model of blowhard nonsense, foisting misinformation in the hopes of tripping up candidates who were unprepared to deal with made-up or distorted facts from the questioner.
Jeez, I hardly want to attack the guy on the day of his death, but people are making some very exaggerated praises of him.
In a country that includes Bill Moyers, calling anyone else “the Sole American Journalist” is ridiculous.
I have to agree with many others regarding Tim. Many say that he was a giant among lessor news people and that may have been true to some extent. He was part of something that I grew up with. Lawrence Spivak, Walter Cronkite and Huntley & Brinkley. These are the ones who gave me my sense of what news should be. I have a hard time imagining Bush making the same headway with these people watching. It used to scare politicians to have to face Spivak and crew on Sunday mornings. Maybe they had better feet on the ground reporters. The CBS evening news with Cronkite, especially during Nam, had great reporters and the best was Dan Rather. Things have sure changed. During the run up to the Iraq invasion, I couldn’t believe my ears listening to Russert and the rest of the media’s top people. In my opinion they were all facilitators rather then questioners. Maybe if Russert would have had a program like Spivak with a panel to question guests, then maybe things would have been different. If Cheney and company scored well on Meet the press, it was kind of like a blessing and other news people backed off.
Plooger contributed this:
There was a time when “progressive” blogs took on the Big Media spin. Today, the DailyKooks and the MyDudds, and other PINO blogs want to deify Russert.
We won’t deify, we’ll remember what really happened. We remembered, with restraint, on Friday. And we will remember in NOvember too.