Tag Archives: Tim Russert

Russert Wake a Self-Referential Good Bye

I caught some of the Tim Russert Memorial on TV while on the stairmaster at the gym.  Never seen such self referential nostalgia before– the mainstream press bidding itself adieu.

On stage were Mike Barnacle, Brian Williams, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and while watching the touching remarks, i couldn’t help but notice folks also saying goodbye to an anachronistic brand of television news reporting that is network based, and centered around evening and sunday morning broadcasts, in other words, old school traditional network reporting.  not so much a good bye to the “old fashioned news reporter–think eric severeid and walter cronkite, who departed from the scene long ago, but a farewell to a genre that has focused too much on an anachronistic network based talking heads who followed the classic ‘good ole days,’ where never quite as good as that “greatest generation,” and whose days are now also numbered.

In the midst of this transformative election campaign, Russert’s passing, tragic to be sure, also marks this transformation in media.  from tv to internet, from 24/7 bottom down to everywhere and always bottom up.  It is a changing of the guard from the Russerts, Barnacles, Brokaws, Gibsons to a new guard of reporting represented by Rachel Maddow, Talking Points Memo, firedoglake and others who are combining inside access with citizen journalism and critical perspectives. The new media is also re-introducing the idea that that the media is not to be considered an elite insiders game, but rather that in a democracy, we all have a responsibility to stay abreast of events, report and analyze them.

This post modern public sphere bodes well for the new Obama era.  


Rachel Maddow for “Meet the Press” Host


Rachel Maddow on Air AmericaNow that NBC is searching for a replacement host for Meet the Press, I’d like to add my two cents that Rachel Maddow would fill the bill. Like Russert, she is a natural news hound, with incredible smarts and offers up an easy but high octane screen presence.  Like Russert, she knows her stuff and from what I can tell she works incredibly hard.  She is not easily intimidated and can handle her own with the likes of Pat Buchanan, who may be a real paleocon ass, but is a smart, sharp tongued right winger who does his best to put Rachel through the rigors every time they meet on MSNBC.  She raises above rather than going tit-for-tat.

With Obama’s nomination sure to have a positive impact on media culture, it also appears time for the media to break glass ceilings, and Maddow offers up two such ceilings. 

In response to those who suggest that Maddow has a political agenda, I would point them to Chris Wallace, a right wing hound on Fox who was Russert’s predecessor at Face the Nation.  Unlike Wallace, Maddow has a Ph.d, in politics which provides evidence of the sophisticated political analysis she is capable of and which would be in display at Meet the Press.

But alas, I am a realist and realize the MSM may not yet welcome Maddow with open arms.  If that’s the case, then consider this.  David Gregory would make a decent Meet the Press Host, and by moving him to Sunday morning, I would suggest then moving Maddow into his MSNBC prime time slot. Maddow deserves her own prime time show, and if not to be Meet the Press, then why not MSNBC’s “Race for the White House,” for now?  


We need more (than) Keith Olbermann

The New Yorker this week runs a feature on Keith Olbermann, angry man (on left).  I’m not convinced Olbermann is a lefty, tho his coverage during the Bush Administration gives ample evidence of his courage to speak truth to power, as he sees it.  

The easy cut against Olbermann is that he is a progressive version of Bill O’Reilly, his arch nemesis.  Far from it.  While I agree that Olbermann provides a critical voice against right wing media hegemony, one Olbermann is a far cry from balancing out the entire Fox network.  It is also worth noting that while Olbermann is quite opinionated, his opinions are supported by evidence, which is sorely lacking in Fox broadcasting.

Quite frankly, I do not know how likely it is that Olbermann would be an Obamanaut should Obama become President. I don’t imagine he becomes a Rush or Bill O’Reilly.  Here’s why: those wingnuts are propaganda machines, feeding off right wing talking points. Olbermann doesn’t answer to anyone, let alone suits issuing daily memos on what to say or not to say or how to say it.

On the larger score, Olbermann represents the first such progressive voice to hit it big in MSM in decades, if ever. Cronkite doesn’t count. too much like Russert (great for what he was, but limited by MSM frame).  

As for the network, MSN is no FOX; the former is ratings driven, the latter is ideologically driven. no comparison. Give MSN its due for giving Olbermann some space to do his thing, but he gets the biggest office and new website only because of ratings. nothing more and no less. consider that MSNBC recently chose David Gregory over Rachel Maddow to replace Tucker Carlson as evidence the network is not committed to progressive voices.

The larger issue is structural. Olbermann represents the limits of the MSM structure as well as its most progressive strength.  The limit is that the current system abides individuals and personality driven politics, once again as long as it reaps profits for the network. The larger issues have to do with the concentration of media ownership, the economic crisis facing the news industry and the reluctance of MSM to frame news in any way other than favoring the bottom line, with the outcome being that it supports and reproduces the political and economic status quo.

So, thanks to Olbermann, progressive voices have somewhere to go on MSM cable. it’s a start.




Lessons from Tim Russert

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!




Changing Winds in Presidential Campaign

This week has brought the winds of change to the presidential campaign. The winds have successfully pushed the democratic race, which has been teetering on the brink of history for several weeks, back on track towards nominating the first African-American candidate for president.

Even Rush Limbaugh’s wind was not sufficient to keep the Clinton campaign on its track. Instead, the rats started jumping ship, seeking high priced book deals for tell-all insights into her doomed campaign. Money has long ago dried up, and now things verge on seeming downright pathetic where the only folks still willing to provide financial support is the candidate herself and her spouse.

Quite frankly, give the cues from Wolfson that he is writing a book, and from Terry McAauliffe that this thing won;t go until the convention, it appears quite evident that the Clinton Campaign realizes full well it is in its last throes and is merely shredding some last minute paper to stop some of the paper trail to follow the post mortem analysis.

A tipping point has been reached on the Republican side side as well. It appears the free ride given the straight talk express is about to come to an end. The blogosphere has successfully and forcefully raised sufficient doubt about McCain that Republicans at the RNC and on the Hill are beginning to panic; talking head Russert has admitted that McCain’s day of reckoning with the press will come; McCain’s wife and sugar mama is making herself fair game with comments about not releasing her tax returns under any circumstances and that her husband shall run a high road campaign while already running ads comparing Obama to Hamas.

If folks keep perspective here, and recognize that McCain still lost about a quarter of the Republican vote in recent primaries even without opposition; that democrats now have functioning state organizations in nearly every state; benefit from an incredible increase in voter registration, and financial support, as well as the tout de grace: McCain is running to be the successor to the worst and most upopular president in history, then perhaps it is appropriate, if only for a moment to sigh in some well deserved relief, a smile even.   Perhaps this democratic contest has helped more than it has harmed afterall.

The proof is still to come, if progressive democrats were to take the presidency, senate and house, as well as be in a position to help restore integrity to a federal judiciary that has long ago turned into a republican right wing patronage machine.  wouldn’t it be nice?

Would Tim Russert Nail John McCain like he Nails Hillary Clinton?

It is being reported in HuffPo that Tim Rusert “nailed Hillary Clinton” yesterday on Meet the Press. Sounds “R” rated. Apparently he showed video proving she repeatedly misrepresented her 1996 trip to Bosnia.

Clinton has said, on multiple occasions, that her plane had to make a “corkscrew” landing due to danger and that she had to run off the plane because there could be sniper fire. These statements were false, and Russert has video of Clinton repeating these statements four different times.

Here’s my question. Would Tim Russert show the same disdain for John McCain’s serial misrepresenting of Vicki Iseman and the lobbyists in his campaign; his violations of public finance laws; his fiery temper and misogynist remarks to his wife; claims that he assaulted a fellow member of congress; his misrepresentations of sunni and shiite, and so forth; his “straight talk” with the press, and so forth.

I think the mainstrean press’ reputation is on the line this election season along side the reputation of the candidates. The cherry picking of targets to ask the “tough questions” too often based on gender,  and the nauseating chuckle at being “in the bag” for McCain, ought to be up for serious scrutiny.

Schecter’s new Book on McCain a test for Media

Here’s the question. Will Chris Matthews and Tim Russert deem it newsworthy to interview Cliff Schecter, author of the forthcoming book, The Real McCain. It would be a test of sorts to see if two mainstream, white, male commentators with issues about women, and believed to be in the bag for McCain, would follow up on well substantiated misogyny claims against their guy. 

Here’s why such an interview would be important. In the past, these commentators have given McCain a pass for calling senate colleagues, “shitheads,” “assholes” and in at least one case “a fucking jerk.” Perhaps some journalists and talking heads think such comments are pretty cool especially if you are not too concerned with an elected officials’ hair triggered temper, or lack of appropriateness, decorum, and professionalism. How “maverick,” even.   Perhaps it’s kinda cool to see your commander in chief call an agonist an asshole, but pretty scary to imagine these words coming out of the mouth of the diplomat in chief, another important presidential assignment. Do we really need another misanthropic president (Cheney, Nixon being others)?

When you add misogyny to the mix, the test is on to see how this white, male McCain fan base might hold his feet to the fire for demeaning not only all women, but his own wife. According to Schecter,

Three reporters from Arizona, on the condition of anonymity, also let me in on another incident involving McCain’s intemperateness. In his 1992 Senate bid, McCain was joined on the campaign trail by his wife, Cindy, as well as campaign aide Doug Cole and consultant Wes Gullett. At one point, Cindy playfully twirled McCain’s hair and said, “You’re getting a little thin up there.” McCain’s face reddened, and he responded, “At least I don’t plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt.” McCain’s excuse was that it had been a long day. If elected president of the United States, McCain would have many long days.”

Think back to how McCain chuckled after one of his supporters referred to Hillary Clinton as “a b*tch.” Hardly the making for a civil and respectful fall campaign, as McCain insistently promises. Seems to me he holds his opponents in deep contempt. Such comments and responses seem hard wired, perhaps exacerbated by the fact that this guy was locked up in solitary confinement for 2 1/2 years. I think the pattern of verbal abuse is cause for discussion and alarm.

Of course the issue has to do with the McCain’s temper, but even more alarmingly is the misogenist and misanthropic ways of seeing the world that would inform a McCain administration.  The press has an obligation to investigate such patterns of behavior and abuse.