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Saturday, June 14, 2008

More on Russert

I've been a little surprised with MSNBC's coverage over these last 24 hours. It has been, without exxageration, nearly completely focused on Tim Russert. I understand that Russert was an icon of Washington journalism, and was apparently universally loved by friends and colleagues at NBC and elsewhere, but the hagiographic eulogies and the non-stop coverage strikes me oddly.

First, Russert was undeniably respected and emulated by colleagues. As John Cole said, however, this is not an unvarnished good.
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.
This isn't to spit on Russert's grave. I really do feel for his friends and family, particularly in light of recent events my own family. However, Russert was respected enough and big enough that people shouldn't forget legitimate criticisms of the man's methods.

Russert's role in the Plame affair was journalistically controversial. Those that seek to emulate Russert's gotcha style would do well to understand the negative aspects of how it was practiced. And he was used by the Bush administration to sell Iraqi WMD claims. Nobody should forget how the Bush administration fed false or exagerated intelligence to Judy Miller, and then sent Dick Cheney to "Meet the Press" to discuss it, because on MTP Cheney could "control the message." Russert was a prominent figure in the Washington press corp during the run up to Iraq, and that's an unfortunate stain on an otherwise illustriuos career.

Such an iconic newsman deserves nothing less than an honest examination of his career.