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Saturday, June 14, 2008

What He Said

posted by on June 14 at 10:03 AM

John Cole:

MSNBC has been running nothing but a 5 hour (and presumably it will go until 11 pm or beyond) marathon of Russert remembrance. CNN has done their due diligence, and Fox news has spent at least the last half hour talking non-stop about him.

But let’s get something straight—what I am watching right now on the cable news shows is indicative of the problem—no clearer demonstration of the fact that they consider themselves to be players and the insiders and, well, part of the village, is needed. This is precisely the problem. They have walked the corridors of power so long that they honestly think they are the story. It is creepy and sick and the reason politicians get away with all the crap they get away with these days.

Tim Russert was a newsman. He was not the Pope. This is not the JFK assassination, or Reagan’s death, or the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. A newsman died. We know you miss him, but please shut up and get back to work.

Via Sullivan.

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John Cole - 1
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Posted by Mr Fuzzy | June 14, 2008 10:09 AM

Hey John, change the channel or better yet turn the damn thing off.

Russert was a well respected journalist. Did the media cover Cronkite's death any less?

Have a bit of perspective.

Posted by I'm a Nuclear Bomb | June 14, 2008 10:10 AM

At least MSNBC isn't wasting five hours with drawings of the Incredible Hulk. Now that would be annoying.

Posted by meh | June 14, 2008 10:15 AM

actually, cronkite's not dead. i assume they'll cover it similarly. i can understand the overkill, but at least on the nbc stations they can barely make it through a newscast w/out tears. i say just change the channel.

Posted by jayme | June 14, 2008 10:19 AM


They are myopic about their role as players, till they die.

Also: news reports mentioned he made $5 million a year.


They should once in a while tell us that. All of them, Brokaw, Williamson, Couric, Scarborough who ever, whomever, whatever.

They sit there and discuss who's elitist and who's not and who's tax plan helps what sector. Isn't knowing if they get almost $100K a week relevant?

Perhaps he and ilk on MSNBC sneered at white working class voters so much and couldn't ever come up with any possible fair or proper reason why they didn't go for Obama as much due to ......

class bias?

Just sayin' it's relevant ..... we sure like to know how rich everyone else is when considering their role as players......

Posted by PC | June 14, 2008 10:19 AM

Cronkite's not dead. And you can skip over drawings of the Incredible Hulk on a blog.

Posted by Paul Constant | June 14, 2008 10:21 AM

Cronkite crush puny Slog!

Posted by Dan Savage | June 14, 2008 10:23 AM

It's not like MSNBC has anything else to run, though -- do they even have correspondents?

I'm almost 41 and I have to admit that I've never seen or heard Russert on TV, ever.

Posted by Just Sayin' | June 14, 2008 10:27 AM

I can't believe you spent FIVE HOURS looking at the Hulk pictures, meh, if you don't even like him.

Posted by Fnarf | June 14, 2008 10:28 AM

Lets see... prominant political newscaster dies during a brief lull in an otherwise fervent election year. I say that's news.

Old retired broadcaster dies many years after he retires = not so big a deal.

Posted by DavidC | June 14, 2008 10:37 AM

Whatever, you ill-informed twits. Without Russert, we wouldn't have Dick Cheney on videotape saying this shit (March 16, 2003):

MR. RUSSERT: If your analysis is not correct, and we’re not treated as liberators, but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I don’t think it’s likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators. I’ve talked with a lot of Iraqis in the last several months myself, had them to the White House. The president and I have met with them, various groups and individuals, people who have devoted their lives from the outside to trying to change things inside Iraq. And like Kanan Makiya who’s a professor at Brandeis, but an Iraqi, he’s written great books about the subject, knows the country intimately, and is a part of the democratic opposition and resistance. The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but what they want to the get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that.

Now, if we get into a significant battle in Baghdad, I think it would be under circumstances in which the security forces around Saddam Hussein, the special Republican Guard, and the special security organization, several thousand strong, that in effect are the close-in defenders of the regime, they might, in fact, try to put up such a struggle. I think the regular army will not. My guess is even significant elements of the Republican Guard are likely as well to want to avoid conflict with the U.S. forces, and are likely to step aside.

Now, I can’t say with certainty that there will be no battle for Baghdad. We have to be prepared for that possibility. But, again, I don’t want to convey to the American people the idea that this is a cost-free operation. Nobody can say that. I do think there’s no doubt about the outcome. There’s no question about who is going to prevail if there is military action. And there’s no question but what it is going to be cheaper and less costly to do it now than it will be to wait a year or two years or three years until he’s developed even more deadly weapons, perhaps nuclear weapons. And the consequences then of having to deal with him would be far more costly than will be the circumstances today. Delay does not help.

MR. RUSSERT: The army’s top general said that we would have to have several hundred thousand troops there for several years in order to maintain stability.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I disagree. We need, obviously, a large force and we’ve deployed a large force. To prevail, from a military standpoint, to achieve our objectives, we will need a significant presence there until such time as we can turn things over to the Iraqis themselves. But to suggest that we need several hundred thousand troops there after military operations cease, after the conflict ends, I don’t think is accurate. I think that’s an overstatement.

MR. RUSSERT: We have had 50,000 troops in Kosovo for several years, a country of just five million people. This is a country of 23 million people. It will take a lot in order to secure it.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, but we’ve significantly drawn down our forces in Kosovo and in the Balkans. There’s no question but what we’ll have to have a presence there for a period of time. It is difficult now to specify how long. We will clearly want to take on responsibilities in addition to conducting military operations and eliminating Saddam Hussein’s regime. We need to be prepared to provide humanitarian assistance, medical care, food, all of those other things that are required to have Iraq up and running again. And we are well-equipped to do that. We have got a lot of effort that’s gone into that.

But the—again, I come back to this proposition—Is it cost-free? Absolutely not. But the cost is far less than it will be if we get hit, for example, with a weapon that Saddam Hussein might provide to al-Qaeda, the cost to the United States of what happened on 9/11 with billions and billions of dollars and 3,000 lives. And the cost will be much greater in a future attack if the terrorists have access to the kinds of capabilities that Saddam Hussein has developed.

Posted by annie | June 14, 2008 10:44 AM

Jealous, jealous, jealous. You are too, Savage.

Posted by NBC-wannabe | June 14, 2008 10:48 AM

I disagree. Russert defined political news. Let NBC mourn, and let all us news junkies mourn with them.

Posted by Joe | June 14, 2008 10:48 AM

Dan just wishes he were dead!

Posted by Ms. Fagazine | June 14, 2008 10:53 AM

Oh please, Heath Ledger's death got more coverage than Tim Russert's, and I don't remember there being a lot of complaining about how he wasn't exactly JFK or the Pope. . .

Posted by Jane | June 14, 2008 11:10 AM

annie @ 11,

Yes, and wasn't it heroic when Russert struck a blow for the American People by calling out Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, Donald Rumsfeld and every other face-biting, shameless, incompetent, psychopathic Bushbot who used his program to give their insane lies and propaganda a patina of credibility?

Oh right--that never happened.

Posted by Original Andrew | June 14, 2008 11:22 AM

Russert grilled everyone hard, regardless of party, and he didn't let the Bushbots or anyone else spin their crap.

Posted by Joe | June 14, 2008 11:30 AM

@9. Well, I spent five hours looking at she-hulk's ass trying to figure out why the fact that she was green didn't change the fact that she made me stand a little straighter.

Posted by MR. Langauge Person | June 14, 2008 11:30 AM

Um, members of the president's cabinet don't need a "patina of credibility." They've already got it. The above line of questioning occurred before the invasion and is way tougher and more skeptical than the reporting that appeared in the supposedly objective New York Times.

People can get as worked up as they like about Russert's supposed failure to attack people whose absurdity and incompetence he has just exposed. I tend to think that's our responsibility after the broadcast. Russert needed to earn and secure Cheney's trust so that he could keep booking him (there's a pretty stunning interview the following September). Being aggro wouldn't have been nearly so effective.

I don't think Russert was perfect, by any means. But your criticism misses the point of programs like Meet the Press.

Posted by annie | June 14, 2008 11:39 AM

thank you. so sorry that TR died, but they are treating it like its the new 9/11 with the scrolling info on the bottom of the screen and the nonstop commentary. they didnt give this much attention to daniel perl, and his death was a wee bit more newsworthy to me.

Posted by um | June 14, 2008 12:20 PM

Annie, reading what you posted @11 I don't see Cheney saying anything that wasn't a talking point. Some flacks thought those points up, wrote them down, and Cheney memorized them. Then they went looking for a venue to deliver them. What did Russert get Cheney to say that hadn't been said elsewhere by the administration? What questions did he ask that nobody else asked? What about all the questions that would have been asked by others more skeptical than Russert?

I fail to see what use all this access and trust is to anybody. He got the story wrong.

Posted by elenchos | June 14, 2008 12:22 PM

Getting somebody on the record saying things that were demonstrably ignorant at the time (you have to follow the logic of what Cheney is saying, not just evaluate each statement separately) is an important service.

Russert only got the story wrong insofar as he failed to ask any questions about the Sunni/Shia faultlines. Believe me, print reporters were missing that too.

But if people believed Cheney's pathetic reasoning (::Kosovo? please!), that's not Russert's fault.

You guys want somebody to tell the truth from on high? You're asking for an opinion columnist, not a host of a Sunday morning talk show. I think it's great that there's a place for gov't officials to spout their talking points in a semi-hostile environment. It helps people make decisions in a more rational manner than they otherwise would have the opportunity to do.

Posted by annie | June 14, 2008 12:33 PM

I think part of the reason why the coverage is so prolific is because his death was so sudden and he was so young (relatively speaking). And, he was still working and very visible.

Posted by Julie | June 14, 2008 12:33 PM

What are your remembrances of Tim Russert Dan?
I look forward to non-stop coverage of your death (though I hope that is long into the future).

Posted by elswinger | June 14, 2008 12:39 PM

I tend to agree with Annie. Tim Russert was - to me - a bringer of truth. And I will miss him.

Not as much as I miss my dogs who died this year or my partner who died eight years ago, but I will miss him.

Coverage overdone? Yeah. But if *I* ran a news organization, you'd be damn tired of my tributes to my wonderful dogs...

Posted by Ayden | June 14, 2008 1:09 PM

...You're asking for an opinion columnist, not a host of a Sunday morning talk show.

annie @ 22,

That's precisely why our establishment media is in an ethical and financial tailspin from which it likely won't recover. It's the central reason why people who care about news are abandoning the establishment media by the truckload.

Being objective does not mean giving equal time to liars and not questioning their crazy lies. Isn't the purpose of journalism to uncover the truth and inform the public? Maybe that's not what they're teaching in j-school these days, but stating facts and confronting people with reality does not make real journalism--real life--an opinion.

Posted by Original Andrew | June 14, 2008 2:45 PM

I understand the grief of Russert's colleagues, and I sympathize, but last night illustrates the real problem, which is the news media's capacity for getting totally fixated on one story, even when it isn't a personal tragedy, as this was for MSNBC. We'll see it on November 4, when they'll obsess for hours before the polls close on what MIGHT happen, forgetting entirely that the rest of the world is still spinning. I'd respect Olberman and Matthews a lot more if, once in a while on election night, they'd say, "While we're waiting for more information, in other news today...." There is ALWAYS other news, even when we're electing a president.

As for Russert, I can understand their desire to throw him a good ol' Irish wake, but they should have done it off camera. That way, at least they'd could have gotten properly drunk.

Posted by Steve T. | June 14, 2008 3:15 PM

Is Tim Russert still dead?

WNBC in New York devoted their entire entire broadcast yesterday to Russert. I changed channels after 15 mins. NBC Nightly News devoted their whole show to Tim Russert. Its all overkill if you ask me.

Was Russert the best journalist of all time? No. Was he the worst? No. I only hope whoever replaces him the the political firmament is as prepared as he was, because some of these on air people are dumb as a doorknob.

Posted by MrEdCT | June 14, 2008 3:16 PM

OK, first, I should say that I don't have cable and have no clue what last night's network coverage looked like and therefore I am judging the supposed "overreaction" on a couple of staid articles in the NYT and WaPo.

But back to Original Andrew. I overstated my case. You want an advocacy journalist, which is totally fine. The Stranger practices advocacy journalism. But if you want to be angry at the reporting that preceded the Iraq war, look at Judith Miller. The host of an interview-based program doesn't play the same role as a print reporter, and it's pointless to ask him to.

Making Dick Cheney repeat his stupid-sounding talking points and confronting him with opposing expert opinions is useful, Tim Russert was good at it, and I'm sorry he's gone.

Posted by annie | June 14, 2008 3:27 PM

I think that some of the comments I see here are coming from a profound sense of disappointment about a vision of the media that never existed and never will be.

Russert died in the studio recording a show for the network. People who considered him a friend had to take to the airwaves shortly after and try to go on with the day. From that perspective, I'd be more furious if Keith Olbermann had tried to push through like nothing had happened.

Their tragedy was the most real thing of the day, for them. It was also nationally newsworthy. The suggestion that they should ignore the death of Tim Russert to talk about The Other Big Things (what? the usual campaign crap?) is simply naive.

Posted by Ryan | June 14, 2008 3:30 PM

Tim Russert was a journalist that every other one should try to aspire to be. If we had more Russerts that asked questions like he did, we would be so much better off as readers and watchers of news.
Russert never accused a guest but merely made them repeat their stance for the record, and when they changed their words he was the first one to point out that they did. He was someone that did his homework and looked at both sides of a story, true journalism is not pointing a finger, it is all about giving both sides of the story. That is what was so amazing about Meet The Press. For the first half Tim would interview someone and let them offer their point of view. And for the second half he would sit with journalists and question the news of the week.
People that write on blogs only sit and question the news that journalists like Tim Russert would dig up week after week.
It is very easy to write a blog post that refers to real (or fake) news, but it is real journalism to interview, question and create an original piece based on a current situation.
Russert was not only a face on the camera, he was the backbone of the entire NBC news staff.
I can only hope there will be more like him.

Posted by Thom | June 14, 2008 4:02 PM

@ annie... (from AP coverage of Russert's death today):

"Russert's show took a hit early in the trial of Vice President Dick Cheney's top aide, Scooter Libby.

"As the Bush administration assessed how to respond to criticism of how the U.S. went to war in Iraq, Cheney's then-chief press aide, Cathie Martin, listed their best option as putting Cheney on Meet the Press.

"Martin wrote in a memo that the show "is our best format" because "we control the message a little bit more."

Posted by Just Sayin' | June 14, 2008 4:11 PM

What an insensitive prick. Russert was a legend and defined presidential political coverage. Dan, do you have a single original thought in that brain of yours? Linking to other bloggers doesn't constitute journalism or original thought you hack.

Posted by ss | June 14, 2008 5:08 PM

Tim Russert seemed to be a nice guy and not a self-aggrandizing dickhead like many of his colleagues. So because of that, his profession is poorer without him.

Posted by lol | June 14, 2008 5:10 PM

And don't forget that it was Russert who basically ruined David Duke's candidacy for president by calling him on the reasons he was running. Yes, it's not like Duke wouldn't have been exposed anyway, but it was Russert's quick thinking that saved us a few months of extra expsure from that bigot.
For those of you who can't remember, Russert asked Duke why he was running. and Duke replied his candidacy was "about economics". Russert then asked who the largest employers in Louisiana were, and Duke couldn't answer.

Posted by Lou | June 14, 2008 6:34 PM

The majority of Democrats in the House of Representatives were against the Iraq War. Polls showed that the American people, right up till the end, didn't want to go to war without the UN and allies. In who they fronted, what they asked, how they framed it, and the tone they took, Russert and the other media minimized the opinion of the majority of the American people. Whereas whenever someone of the left went on, Russert and the others went after them hammer and tongs, on this and other issues.

The Iraq war was the biggest WTF moment I can think of. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, and was zero threat to us. Their presentation to the UN was a joke. These journalists could have done better than questions like, Shouldn’t we use more troops? and Are the American people really ready for this?
Russert and the others have been a big reason why this country is going down the tubes.

Posted by chicagogaydude | June 14, 2008 7:15 PM

I saw the news of Russert's death. It made me sad. But I haven't watched TV since. Sorry y'all have to deal with crazy TV stuff. I was at the Hon Fest here in Baltimore. And we have family visiting from out of town.

Posted by Balt-O-Matt | June 14, 2008 7:45 PM
OK, first, I should say that I don't have cable and have no clue what last night's network coverage looked like and therefore I am judging the supposed "overreaction" on a couple of staid articles in the NYT and WaPo.

annie think maybe the fact that you don't watch the shows but read the NYT would make you think that Judith Miller is more important and at fault - btw she was also put on cable via phone from her imbedded position.

Posted by ouch | June 14, 2008 7:56 PM


Yeah, linking to other bloggers -- what other reputable blogger does *that*? BESIDES ALL OF THEM. And blogging may be done by a lot of journalists, but not all bloggers are journalists, and I don't think I've ever heard Dan describe himself as a journalist. Take your buyout from the Times/PI, ss, and move into your retirement home already.

Posted by Ms. Fagazine | June 14, 2008 8:03 PM

I liked Russert because he didn't make it all about himself and his celebrity. All of a sudden it was like, "Who's this ugly fat guy who interviews all the presidents?" He wasn't a pretty boy, he just tried to do a decent job.

Posted by subcarrier | June 14, 2008 8:07 PM

annie is so totally right. I'll take one Russert over a dozen Olbermans. Or Moores. Ask the fucking question, get the fucking answer- I'll decide what to make of it.

Posted by Big Sven | June 14, 2008 9:51 PM

could we get back to talking about lack of healthcare in the us, the corruption that has delivered outrageous gas prices, the worthless dollar and the war in iraq

sad passing, but not all that big of a story---VERY self-serving all the way around and obama says he is "grief-stricken"----really? how weird.

Posted by LA Reader | June 15, 2008 4:45 AM

Amen, it's too bad more in the media don't have Cole's opinion instead of the other.

Posted by ABM | June 15, 2008 5:17 AM

As always, try stepping out of the bubble for a little perspective. Read some non-U.S. media, and ... Tim who? Yeah, he stuck it to Cheney. And that sure did Cheney in, didn't it? You know it's ominous when Scott Simon of NPR talks about Russert with that voice of his that he only uses when he interviews blinded, raped nuns. Don't even get me started about NPR... Yes, it's time to drink the Kool-Aid, everyone.

I'll leave the last word to Harry Shearer on Le Show for his "News Outside the Bubble" segment.

Posted by MichaelPgh | June 15, 2008 8:39 AM

I have to agree with #34. The vast majority of talking heads on TV are self important assholes who are certain that their opinion is the ONLY one that matters. Russert wasn't like that. Also, he was a sports fan and a religous man and a devoted father and son, which made him more genuine and a person of greater integrity. That, and the fact that he died at 58, two days before Fathers Day (after taking care of his father and his son), makes this a particularly tragic and saddening story, and therefore, worthy of extensive coverage. Mathews or Olberman(two of the many shitheads on TV) would not warrant the same veneration.

Posted by Hoof Hearted | June 15, 2008 2:07 PM

Okay, he was a good journalist. But please, this endless obituary is tiresome. Dan's correct. There seems to be an effort to make themselves Gods.

Posted by Vince | June 15, 2008 3:59 PM

Well, if Andrew Sullivan died, Dan would cry a river. He's curiously devoid of empathy when anyone is affected other than the talking heads/bloggers/pundits he happens to endorse.

Sure he's right about this in principle, but it's not like he doesn't practically worship a handful of media figures, like Sullivan for example.

Posted by Jay | June 15, 2008 4:56 PM

Badly played. I think some respect is in order.

Posted by Larry | June 16, 2008 10:12 AM

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