Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert dead - Iraq War goes on (Updated)

Dark Lord Cheney being interviewed by his pal Tim Russert 09/10/06

Tim Russert of Meet the Press passed away suddenly today at age 58.

We'll see lots of tributes to him, and that's expected and appropriate.

But I predict that very few of those tributes in the Establishment press will talk about his egregious role in promoting the most vapid and destructive press scripts that have poisoned American politics so badly during the last decade and more and helped land us in Iraq.

Russert was the king of "gotcha" journalism, if we can call his more recent work journalism. One way he displayed his obsequious stance toward Republicans in power came out during his testimony in Scooter Libby's trial related to outing Valerie Plame. He admitted that he followed a policy that any conversation with a government official he considered "off the record" unless the official gave him positive permission to use it. Does a paid government PR functionary do anything different?

Russert's decision not to report what he knew about the Plame outing was a serious thing, very serious. Even more serious was his irresponsible role in helping Dick Cheney and George Bush set up the invasion of Iraq. Cheney said at one point he liked going on Russert's Meet the Press because he (Cheney) could keep complete control of the message there. In his most infamous outing in that connection, Russert on Meet the Press for 03/16/03, just prior to the invasion of Iraq based on fabricated evidence, asked Cheney this hard-hitting question: "And even though the International Atomic Energy Agency said he [Saddam Hussein] does not have a nuclear program, we disagree?" (my emphasis) To which Cheney notoriously replied, "And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." Read the transcript to see the kind of "journalism" that enabled the American armed forces to be stuck indefinitely in Iraq.

I know that as a rule we're not supposed to speak ill of the dead, at least immediately after they pass away. But I know Russert only as a public figure. And in that role, he's been one of the most influential people in driving the deterioration of TV News into a form where it no longer does the minimal job that a free press in a democracy has to do in order for democracy to thrive. We'll see how many of his colleagues are willing to utter a peep about that during the next few days.

Update: Russert did an online chat earlier today, Vigilance needed on campaign claims 06/13/08. He promised that MSNBC would cover the Presidential campaign with a focus on "big issues between John McCain and Barack Obama". But in the chat itself, the only "issues" he actually discusses have to do with the horse-race. Back on May 25 on Meet the Press, Russert and his Big Pundit guests had a good laugh when he brought up the general notion of those big issues, suggesting that he was actually going to be covering them.

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"It is the logic of our times
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