Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Monsignor Passes

What with all the keening and covering with ashes going on at the passing of Msgr. Tim Russert, the Washington Bureau Chief for NBC News and the Moderator of Meet the Press, and long time Catholic Apologist, would-be priest, and potential Monsignor, you'd think the Pope Himself had passed.

What with all the expressions of devotion and belovedness his shade is receiving from the so-called progressive blogosphere, you'd think he was a model of some sort to be emulated. A courtier to be flattered. St. Reagan himself doesn't receive such devotion.

Come on, people. What would you do if Chris Matthews died? Throw yourselves on his funeral pyre?

This is ridiculous.

Tim Russert was an obsequious toady to power, particularly -- nay, almost exclusively -- to Republican Power, in true Palace Courtier fashion, and it was his job of Sunday mornings (although MTP was broadcast on Sunday afternoons for years in my region) to catapult the propaganda, get the weekly Republican talking points out, and interview Republican politicians in as gentle and subservient a manner as possible. It was his job to savage and embarrass Democrats. He set the standard for it. And he was emulated throughout Gasbag Land.

His sudden death was of course a shock, not simply to his colleagues and rivals (assuming he had rivals) but to the world of political junkies in general, who can barely imagine carrying on without the Monsignor to guide them. Russert was the definition of serious political media.

It's apparently impossible to imagine a mainstream political media without him.

What was truly surprising to me, scanning the hundreds or thousands of comments on the lefty blogs on the topic of Russert's passing, was the number of posters who said they "liked" him, and who claimed he was "fair." Clearly, his influence over the way people define basic terms (like "fairness") was tremendous. Of course there were a handful of those who expressed disgust with his on-air behavior and condemned him to the Fires of Hell for What He Did (such as tirelessly promoting the Iraq invasion and occupation, dismissing or denouncing Democrats and other opposition and so on), but most were nearly as obsequious as Russert himself in the throes of his passion for Republican Power.

I stopped watching him a long time ago. This list of posts at Media Matters might help clarify why:

Will pundits who blasted Howard Dean in 2003 over troop-numbers response question McCain's fitness following his Iraq troop-level falsehood?
Friday, May 30, 2008

Amid spate of high-profile stories, Russert continues to ignore "the story about Senator McCain and lobbyists and ethics and money" on Meet the Press
Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Russert: "[T]he story about Senator McCain and lobbyists and ethics and money -- that continues" -- but not on Meet the Press
Friday, May 23, 2008

On Meet the Press, Russert allowed GOP strategist Murphy to falsely claim that "Rubin mischaracterized," "paraphrased" McCain
Sunday, May 18, 2008

Exec. producer tells fishbowl DC that Meet the Press "would certainly be open" to interviewing Bob Barr
Friday, May 16, 2008

Will Russert offer Libertarian candidate Barr the same Meet the Press platform he gave Nader?
Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Russert told Harwood, "Speak for yourself," on the media as McCain's "base" -- but Russert's colleague Matthews has said it too
Monday, May 12, 2008

Russert noted media's lack of scrutiny of McCain over Hagee, other issues, but not Russert's own McCain "grace period" on Hagee
Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Russert suggested GOP would run ads against Obama featuring "Pledge of Allegiance" charge without noting it's false
Sunday, April 20, 2008

On Today, Russert, Mitchell, and Lauer highlight Clinton's tax returns, don't mention McCain's
Wednesday, April 9, 2008

On Morning Joe, Russert mischaracterized Democrats' Iraq positions, his own debate question
Tuesday, April 8, 2008

and there are many more at the site. Or go through Digby's archives.

It's just appalling.

A modest suggestion: instead of holding up Tim Russert as a model and speculating about who will take his place, how about thinking of this as a teaching moment, rethinking the whole notion of media "vs" pols and, for example, resurrecting the earlier version of Meet the Press in which a panel of journalists grilled the guest under the deft moderation of Lawrence Spivak? Or maybe roundtables in which media representatives are themselves grilled by -- oh, why not? -- bloggers and/or citizens?

Russert was the dominant personality in his trade, and that meant that his particular viewpoint and many of his character traits became accepted as the standard of his profession. We've seen the results.

It's time for something else again.

1 comment:

  1. The time for something else is long overdue.

    I've been dismayed, to say the least, by some comments on the progressive blogs on Tim Russert's death. If some want to adhere to "the sententious piety about Not Speaking Ill of the Dead," they have no obligation to fill the void with empty praise. A simple acknowledgment of his death and condolences to his family and loved ones is sufficient.

    I found Tim Russert unwatchable, in large part, because of his vacuous questions, as analyzed by Matthew Yglesias (in addition to his obsequious toadying). His not-infrequent invocations of his hometown of Buffalo were, in my view, dazzling in their irrelevance.

    [OT: I always appreciate your comments on Glenn's blog, Ché. They're powerfully written and cut right to the heart of the matter.]