I think some progressive bloggers are wary of weighing in on Tim Russert’s life and achievements because of some recent questions of bias in his treatment of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain. He also rarely turned to progressives and lefties as policy and political experts, no matter how qualified, which is a well worn and deserved critique of the MSM.
I share these questions, and yet, am saddened by his death and agree it leaves a huge hole in the mainstream coverage of the 08 electoral campaign. I agree with those who have eulogized Tim Russert as one of the hardest working and thorough journalists in the field. In my opinion he was one of the few MSM journalists worth tuning in to on Sunday morning. I always learned something, be it some new angle in the mainstream narrative some detail I had not thought of or found in other sources.
That’s not to say I agreed with Tim Russert’s politics or with those that say he was manifestly neutral and n advocate only for the truth. I doubt this generally, and am wary of persons who claim that journalists (like social scientists) don’t themselves bring their own biases to the game they cover or have an impact on the very stories they investigate and write about. Neutrality simply does not exist in the post-modern universe.
Russert had his biases. I believe his credo was fairness, and he wasn’t gentler on one political party over another. I don’t think he played favorites that way.
But I do believe Russert was gentler on others who knew the inside game like he did; he brought down David Duke but never quite took down Bush or Cheney the same way; Clearly he loved the inside the beltway mix, — probably almost as much as he loved Buffalo– and I think this love of the game at time blurred the lens thru which Russert interviewed McCain, Bush and Cheney. I agree he asked the tough questions but not always of the right people, and at times he didn’t follow through with the obvious and killer follow-up. sometimes he let Cheney and other Bushco off the hook. As a VP at NBC he could have but didn’t unleash his investigatory team to find out the answers behind the talking heads.
He did this several times with John McCain during the primary season. Perhaps he would have been more critical with McCain during the general election but we will never know. I thought at the time that Russert was noticeably tougher on Hillary Clinton than John McCain. and his questioning of Obama sometimes seemed oddly 1980s (ish).
And i hope such qualified criticism is received in the spirit of the honesty that Russert abided during his professional career. Tim Russert was about the BEST mainstream journalist around. The likes of Stephanopoulos and Gibson and and Couric and Matthews pale in comparison. Unlike these folks, Russert was a teacher, a dissector. He got US politics. I learned from him and for this I thank him.
He also leaves some lessons: 1) he knew his shit and simply outworked his peers on the left and right (know your shit); 2) he really was a nice guy on camera and off (no need to be a jerk); 3) He really loved what he did and quite literally died with his boots on (do what you love). what a way to go!