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Friday, June 13, 2008

OT: Good Riddance, Tim Russert

Jon censored me for saying this at DT, and it's against the rules there, I know, so in a bit of forum-shopping I note in passing that Tim Russert died of a heart attack today at the age of 58. I have some sympathy for his family, but what I do not have is much sympathy for the man. He was a coward and a first-rate tool, a propagandist of the lowest order, a patsy of the Bush Administration who used his position to spread outright lies about the situation in Iraq. Russert is dead? Well, so what? How many American soldiers are dead because of his help in starting a groundless war? How many Iraqis are dead? Good riddance to an incurious and lazy man who fell asleep on the job when he could have done the most possible good.

Update 6/14: From Bill Moyers:

TIM RUSSERT: Look, I'm a blue-collar guy from Buffalo. I know who my sources are. I work 'em very hard. It's the mid-level people that tell you the truth.

BILL MOYERS: They're the ones who know the story?

TIM RUSSERT: Well, they're working on the problem. And they understand the detail much better than a lotta the so-called policy makers and political officials.

BILL MOYERS: But they don't get on the Sunday talk shows.

TIM RUSSERT: No. I mean, they don't want to be, trust me. I mean, they can lose their jobs, and they know it. But they can provide information which can help in me challenging or trying to draw out sometimes their bosses and other public officials.

BILL MOYERS: What do you make of the fact that of the 414 Iraq stories broadcast on NBC, ABC and CBS nightly news, from September 2002 until February 2003, almost all the stories could be traced back to sources from the White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department?

TIM RUSSERT: It's important that you have an opposition party. That's our system of government.

BILL MOYERS: So, it's not news unless there's somebody…

TIM RUSSERT: No, no, no. I didn't say that. But it's important to have an opposition party, your opposing views.

Hey, didja hear that? Fact checking is apparently somebody else's job. Not his.

What infuriates me is that I remember exactly what Moyers was talking about in the leadup to this war. Not a single thing was said that didn't come back to some administration source, often unnamed, that went unchallenged, and that just as frequently melted when exposed to daylight. But men like Russert refused to do their jobs. Other men died for that cowardice. And for that, I simply have no respect.

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I think you may have linked to the wrong article for that "patsy" line, as that piece doesn't back up your statement at all.

Can we assume you'll treat the death of every journalist of the past decade with such graciousness and good temper? If Russert, who has always been an incisive interviewer who challenged all comers (and as a result was respect by all sides) draws such scorn, I hope not to be in the place of one of the lesser lights of punditry.
Tim Russert was a better man than you will obviously ever be. Yes, maybe he didn't do his job as well as he should've in the lead up to the Iraq war. But to get some kind of perverted satisfaction out of the fact that a man died before his time is just wrong. There are boundaries of decency and good taste in this world. And you sir have sadly gone way beyond them all.
Really, scareduck? That's the sort of reaction you're going to have to a man's death?

I think it's telling that bloggers of all side of the political spectrum, from diarists at DailyKos to Michelle Malkin all noted the passing of Tim Russert with sadness. The only people I've seen with a reaction similar to yours are the Hillary Clinton dead-enders who see Russert as part of the media machine that persecuted their candidate. These same people openly wish harm on Senator Obama. Do you really want to be lumped in with them?

And Chronicler is right. Yes, Russert could have done a better job keeping the Bush Administration honest before the beginning of the war. But you could say that about the entire profession of journalism in this country. Hell, I think we are all equally guilty of allowing such a fallacious war to be waged in our name. Iraq is and was a national failure, not of one man.

I would guess that you and I are of the same political stripe. Though I am liberal, I would never wish harm on anyone in public life, no matter how much I disagree with them. I wouldn't even wish that on President Bush, a man I hold incredible contempt for and believe will be judged by history as our worst president.

I visit your blog often, along with Halos Heaven, to keep up with the Angels, and I'll continue to despite this. But I ask in the most constructive way possible, "Have you no shame, sir?"
This comment has been removed by the author.
I also want to note that Chronicler is correct--that link you provided as evidence that Russert was a willing "tool" for the Administration does not support that statement. If anything, all it indicates was that the Vice President's staff thought that he did best in the Meet The Press format. At face value this makes sense, as he is obviously not the most charismatic man in the world. He seems like the sort who does best in a one-on-one interview rather than speaking at a large venue in front of a large audience.

Tim Russert was not perfect, but he was definitely not a Fox News crony.
A truly awful post. Can you imagine his family having to read this while mourning his loss? I have enjoyed your blog, but won't be visiting again. Good riddance, 6-4-2.
I've been coming here for years and out of the blue you start throwing your political beliefs into the mix? Weird. Political discussion has it's place, but I sure don't come here for it. Do you really have the arrogance to assume a vast majority of your readers care what you think about politics? Did it not even cross your mind this might turn off readers? Whatever your point, you've only succeeded in seeming angry and classless. Hopefully, it's a lesson learned for you. As for me, I'm done with your site.
Shameful and disrespectful post. I've been a frequent visitor to the site, and I too will not be back.
Come on, people -- while the post was certainly repellent, it's not really 100% out of character either. Rob's a moody, righteous, sometimes very angry duck, and that comes across whether he's writing about baseball or not. This is more extreme than usual, perhaps, but par for the course. I'll continue to read the blog.
Meh. I never cared for the way he did his job, and the schmaltz was often way too thick, but that doesn't warrant a death sentence. He should have been taken to task a lot more, but at most, his sins warranted removal or loss of audience. I don't wish death on too many people. I'll save it for the really repellent.
Not once does Rob wish death on Russert, or anyone else. He just expresses ambivalence over his death.

It's neither unacceptable nor in particularly good taste, but protesting by not reading a blog isn't really protesting at all.

Grow some thicker skin, folks.
Ambivalence? Where is the feeling contradicting the "good riddance" feeling?
No ambivalence here. He contributed directly to the deaths and serious wounding of a lot of young people who idealistically or otherwise volunteered to serve their country. And as the Chronicler implied upthread, he was not really that different from so many others. The lot of them have given up and do not deserve the name "journalist", but instead have taken up the role of stenographer. That they pass themselves off as the former while playing the latter is no surprise. Glenn Greenwald has a lot to say about this, and I plan on adding to this post after I get done with my Angels recap.
Good Riddance = "An expression of pleasure on being rid of some annoyance - usually an individual."

Who takes pleasure in the death of another human being?
scoundrel, n. a wicked or evil person; someone who does evil deliberately.

Taking pleasure in it? Huh. I find him despicable. I would even say the world would be a better place without him if it weren't for the fact that so many others with his lazy, contemptible attitude were around to take his place. I can't get over the dead he had a hand in creating, the lives snuffed out on a war championed by some of the most venal, corrupt politicians of this or any other generation. Russert's thoughtless treatment of the consequences of the war he helped start upon their lives was more than a little callous. The bodies stack up like cordwood.
Russert was the Vin Scully of politics. He called the game and never delved into it.
I am fine with people hating the war and those who got the US into it, however blaming it on a guy who has consistently moderated fervent debate on both sides of the American Political spectrum is idiotic. Similarly, saying Good Riddance to a giant who is in my opinion the best in his field is classless.
I too, will not be coming back. Later douche.
Okay two things:

1) You have yet to provide anything more than your mere assertion that Tim Russert was any more complicit in "causing" the Iraq War than any other journalist or any other person, really. Got evidence?

2) The Bill Moyers interview you posted doesn't really support the claim you're making. All he's saying is that it's important to take note of opposing views. If most stories come from sources within the Administration, how do you expect him to fact check? It's not like there are secret Democrats working in the Bush White House.

I'm noticing a pattern here--that you tend to blow what evidence you have out of proportion in order to support your claim. It's like you're looking of some small shred of proof--no matter how thin--to prove your preconceived notions.
Okay. I got it now. You think the death of Tim Russert is a good thing because he should've done more to prove that the Bush Administrations case for war was full of holes. That basically sums up your twisted argument, right?

I agree with you on one point. The media was clearly a lapdog for the White House. They absolutely could have done more. But there's a lot of other groups or people out there that could have done more as well. Will it be "Good Riddance" when they pass on too?

The Moyers transcript is sort of ambiguous. Russert didn't really do a great job answering the question. I can see why you're saying what you're saying, but there can be other meanings too.

By the way, saying "Good Riddance, Tim Russert", does imply to some people that you took pleasure in his death.
Don't forget! Russert also lost the Vietnam War, killed Karen Silkwood, and refused to pitch Andy Hassler against Cecil Cooper. He caused the strike of 1994, made Bruce Springsteen write bad records, and single-handedly expanded executive power to Richard Nixon levels. There's a major new motion picture planned, told from the prospective of his doctor, and it's called "The Last King of Scotland." His timely death thus secured, we have narrowly averted nuclear holocaust.
Hi, Matt. Your point?
A comment by e-mail from long-time reader, Suffering Bruin, who takes a much more measured position on this matter:

My two cents:

Rob's right. Tim Russert failed miserably in covering this horrifically bad administration. Russert was at least obtuse about Iraq, Scooter Libby and other issues. His performance at the Democratic debate was awful. The NYT article states what was true--Cheney felt MTP was safe ground, much like Fox News. The Moyers interview should point out to people that Russert had little to no understanding of the responsibilities of a journalist.

I'm sorry, but I have to laugh at Russert's defenders. Please, people. The man had the largest microphone in the business and did nothing with it. People who were and are against this administration have been right for 7 years now and if you still support Bush and you still think Iraq was a great idea, then I assume most of you are living in a place where the color of the sky is different from my world. You know, the real world I live in. So Rob is right.


You don't say "good riddance." You just don't. Not about a loving father, husband and friend. Russert may have been corrupted by power, ego or negligence but he was the corrupted, not the corrupt. We can say he failed as journalist and mourn the man. It's possible Russert, like so many of us, went a little crazy after 9/11 and the core beliefs of what it meant to be an American--freedom, liberty and established rights--all took a backseat to staying safe. Whatever the explanation, Russert's faults as a professional are and should be overcome by his qualities as a human being. The two are not intertwined unless he's willfully causing harm to others and I'm not buying that part of the argument, Rob.

Put another way--I'm not a very good teacher. I'm okay, but not great. If I died, some of my students wouldn't be sorry, others would be deeply saddened. I got to live with that until I get better at my gig. Russert might've gotten there. Unlike so many in the administration, he was at least human.

Last point and perhaps most important--people are saying they're going to stop reading Rob's blog to which I reply: get thee to an echo chamber and pronto. You'll be happier there. I agree and disagree with Rob on a weekly basis, if not a daily basis. May it always be thus for as long as he keeps this blog and may that be for a very long time.

Reading Rob a long time time, i want to comment.

Rob seems to make one big gaffe a year. this one is it: Bad taste Rob, but i'm looking forward now to a summer free of the blog wars with our fellow Halo bloggers. Some of Rob's OT stuff is OK, some isn't - but regardless, i'm just here to read about baseball and will continue to do so daily.

I've read some comments across a variety of forums about Russert and know one came close to this invective, not even the ones anit-war and lefter than left. Everything else i saw was gracious.

Bruce Springsteen wrote a bad record? huh? that's a good segue to lead into my next point. though i don't agree with a lot of Sprinsteen's politics, he's still my favorite artist, and i'd gladly fork out hundreds to hear him perform - i just have learned to filter out where i don't agree with him, so any one refusing to come back here to 6-4-2? its your loss. After all, you're coming here to read about baseball, not Rob's politics and Rob continues to do a very fine job at the game. I'd say the same exact thng about Mr. Welch (and HH) - Matt's a well-known antagonist of Sen. McCain but the Senator will get my vote (admittedly, somewhat lukewarmly), but i don't visit Welch's site for his political views - just what he writes about Angels baseball.

It's Rob's blog - he can express want he wants to write about. I've seen him grow as a journalist and also he sometimes admits his mistakes and grows from them. Hopefully, we all do.

Express your objection for this mistake and cut him some slack (that's what i'd hope from others when i blow it).

and if you don't come back for the baseball, it's your loss.
He contributed directly to the deaths and serious wounding of a lot of young people who idealistically or otherwise volunteered to serve their country. - Rob

well, i voted for Bush/Cheney. Millions did. I guess i'm in that camp too.
Brian -- so did I, back in 2000, figuring he was better than Al Gore, who annoyed the hell out of me and frankly scared me as a continuation of some of the policies of the Clinton administration. (Louis Freeh and the Clinton's supine behavior WRT certain technology issues in particular really were worrisome; mostly this was about wiretapping and encryption issues.) But after 2001 and the mad dash to curtail civil liberties thereafter, I had my mind changed rather rapidly.
The canonization of Russert in popular culture makes it clear that the middle of the road status quo, not the extremists, are the true threat to freedom of thought and expression. Majority rules means all else are silenced.

Here, Rob didn't suck cholesterol man's ass nor succumb to the "decorum" trap, and you preppie, ball-less ninnies want to roast him for threatening the manicure of your dying culture's lawn. The suburban white majority will not allow their mouthpiece to be remembered as anything but a saint when Russert's Forrest Gump impersonation was a textbook example of complicity.

The executioner's face is always well-hidden. This time it was behind the aw-shucks grin of an insider posing as the guy behind you in line at Krispy Kreme.
Wow, Rev.

You and Rob both share the gift of tactlessness.
cI am right behind Rob...!!!

All you bloggers whom think Russert's having a personal life with any redeeming quality offsets his obvious knowing perpetuation of blatant propaganda and outright lies to support the ultra wealthy, whom he supported with a vicious guard dog like dedication, are off the mark. Most likely some if not all the bloggers taking a reasoned stand defending any aspect of Russert are most likely Republican infiltrators or Fox news foot solders! I used a search engine to find any dissention about the slobbering cascade of tongue in cheek blather praising Russert for such a commendable career.
I have watched this guy for years and thought what a disservice to the public he has been... Yet he is just one of an army of talking heads that firmly hold positions of disinformation and are there for appearance only. He was just a well paid lackey nothing more nothing less. And his passing will only usher in another lap dog to take his place. It reminds me of all the hype and revisionist history in regaling Regan when he passed. As if he wasn't one of the most detrimental Presidents to ever puppet office for the ultra wealthy and there campaign to wipe out the all so dangerous well informed middle class..! Albeit the complacent well fed asleep at the wheel middle class to put a fine point on it..!

Ben Franklin said " It's only a democracy if you can keep it"

Russert was bad for a million reasons and sensitivity's aside his passing is but a note of a traitor amongst us. He was way to smart and informed to not know better. I suppose truthfully he could only have made a little noise at any given moment with his big microphone and they would have axed him anyway.!!!

Yet call it what it is and he whom he was! Bad very bad Joseph Goebbels bad! No excuses! And to bloggers with your discrete point of view and hubla of graciousness, decency and good taste tell it to the Jews of the 30's. Fool s one and all............
I'll still read your blog for Dodgers stuff, but now I know you're a whack job and that any advice or opinion you give is that one of a freaking nut. So thanks Rob, thanks for telling me that you're fucking crazy and blame one fucking man who never worked for the government for the deaths of millions of people. Because you know, Tim Russert was part of the State Department, or the Defense Department, or part of the cabinet, or part of congress. ...Oh wait, he wasn't, But hey he's still DIRECTLY responsible because he's a fucking reporter right and lived in Washington right?

Fucking nut.
He had a voice, and a big one, and chose to use it to pass on lies that helped push the country toward a needless war. If he is not culpable, who is? Are we supposed to let everyone off the hook? I don't think so, and a supine press had an inordinate role in this disaster.
This Sept. 8, 2002 interview with Dick Cheney might be of interest.
Yes, the same story his office leaked to the New York Times so he could amplify that. It's a perfect example of the sort of thing I'm complaining about. All of these stories were ultimately coming from the government, and yet Russert mentioned this not at all. And then Russert lets Cheney get away with oily equivocation on the matter of an Iraq/al Qaeda link:

I can’t-I’ll leave it right where it’s at. I don’t want to go beyond that. I’ve tried to be cautious and restrained in my comments, and I hope that everybody will recognize that.

Wow, no follow-up on the single biggest selling point of the war, huh, Tim?

Somebody on the BTF thread regarding this topic said it perfectly: you wanted to be on "Meet the Press" when you wanted to appear to have been thoroughly grilled without the inconvenience of actually having been so.
Wow, no follow-up on the single biggest selling point of the war, huh, Tim?

No follow-up?

Here are a series of consecutive questions from Russert:

Mr. RUSSERT: One year ago when you were on MEET THE PRESS just five days after September 11, I asked you a specific question about Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Let’s watch:

(Videotape, September 16, 2001):

Mr. RUSSERT: Do we have any evidence linking Saddam Hussein or Iraqis to this operation?


(End videotape)

Mr. RUSSERT: Has anything changed, in your mind?


Mr. RUSSERT: What does the CIA say about that and the president?


Mr. RUSSERT: Anything else?


Mr. RUSSERT: But no direct link?


So you pick Cheney's response to the last of four questions as the starting point of the conversation, and then blame Russert for not following up on his third follow-up. Okay.
The fact is that Russert seems just fine with that.

On YouTube via Glenn Greenwald:

It may be tricky to say this, and I'll say it, when we went to war with Iraq, [Tim] and I had a little discussion about that, and this is where Tim is Everyman, he is Us as a country. I said: "How can you believe this war is justified?" And he said: "The nuclear thing. If they have a bomb that they can use, we gotta deal with it. We can't walk away from that."

And that, to me, was the essence of what was wrong with the whole case for the war. They knew that argument would sell with Mr. America, with The Regular Guy, with the True American Patriot. They knew the argument that would sell, that would get us into that war. Tim was right on the nail. He was Us, the American People. . . . That was the thing that sold America, and the guys who wanted the War used that one thing that would sell the Patriot in Tim Russert.

Like I said, they knew a patsy when they saw one.
Good Riddance is damned appropriate!

Stop with the cowardice. Russert did irreparable damage to the profession of journalism as well as the country -- that is his one and only epitath.


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