Sunday, June 19, 2022

Sunday Morning Came and Went: Tim Russert Edition

As many of you know, I've largely given up on vivisecting the Sunday Shows every week.  Because after doing it for +17 years and seeing the Sunday Shows get nothing but worse along exactly the same trajectories I was writing about 17 years ago, I didn't see much point in continuing.

Sure, there are special occasions when I will haul out the Theremin of Truth and pluck a few chords about how fucking awful the media is and how it will never change, but by and large life is short and there are so many other walls to bang my head against, so something had to be downsized.

However, this week happens to be the 14th anniversary of the death of Tim Russert of "Meet The Press" fame.  And since that time so god damn much saccharine mythology about how Russert was the ne plus ultra of American political journalism has barnacled over his professional mausoleum that I thought, for some of you younger folks, it might be helpful to mention that not all of us shared that opinion of Russert when he was aboveground, nor do we share in this nostalgic hagiographizing.

So let's you and I go back to June in the Year of Our Lord 2008.  

That's 14 years ago for the math-challenged.  

It was the ass-end of what we on the Left thought would surely go into the books as the Worst Presidential Administration in history [Hard-Won Pro Tip:  The "books" are are always open never finished.]  By this time the Democratic and Republican primaries were over and both parties had their nominees all sorted.  For the record (and for the Third Party pedants out there), four other parties also fielded presidential nominees: Ralph Nader (Independent), former Georgia Republican Representative Bob Barr (Libertarian),  former Pastor Chuck Baldwin from Florida (Constitution Party)and former Georgia Democratic Representative Cynthia McKinney (Green Party).

So with the stage set and the dramatis personae assembled,  let's see what old Unca Driftglass was scribbling 14 years ago about the death of Tim Russert:

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Sunday Morning Comin’ Down

"That Which Survives" Edition.

"I am for you, Joe Biden!" (click pic for larger)

Who are you?

I am Losira. Commander.

Commander of what?

Of this station.

Station? Station, where?

For a long and terrible time, American journalism has been slowly bleeding out its heart and soul. Dying. Putrefying into a lifeless, profit-centered fortress for political celebrities.

Degenerating into a multi-billion-dollar scam best described over 35 years ago by Doctor of Journalism Hunter S. Thompson in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, as…
“…not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits - a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage.”
Except now they do it on camera. In very nice suits. And for a payday so lavish it would have dwarfed Thompson’s wildest, acid-fueled dreams of expense account El Doradoes. But it is also a fortune based on a fraud so precariously balanced on the edge of collapse that it must be savagely protected every minute of every day from the grotty rabble who want to upset the Golden Applecart of Mindless "Objectivity" with a lot of loose and dangerous talk about Liberty and Truth.

And so, lost today in all the folds of black bunting and pleats of mourning dresses around the Mouse Circus were the differences between informational rigor, and intellectual rigor.

Between hard work and good works.

One after another, Sunday talkers queued up to attest to Tim Russert’s Punkin’-Haid-and-shoulders-above-the-rest status as a towering plier of their trade; what a hurricane force Best Practices model he was.

And, sadly, that assessment is exactly true.

I have no standing to say a word about Tim Russert’s personal life, so I’m perfectly happy to assume that it was exemplary. Good husband, son, father, uncle and husband. Loyal friend. Picked up after his dog.

Alla that.

But his professional life was another thing entirely, and no fire hose of laudatory prose from his peers -- however heartfelt -- with alter the fact that Russert was no pioneering journalist. Instead, he kept ferocious watch over the Beltway's Velvet Rope Line; keeping the Serious People Secure and In and the dirty fucking hippies Marginal and Out.

Week after week after week, Russert held his meaty thumb on the scale, insuring that only the Royalty of Bourgeois Centrism made it into the clubhouse.

Here, according to Wikipedia, is a list of the most frequent guests on Meet the Press
* Bob Dole/63 appearances
* John McCain/50 appearances
* Joseph Biden/41 appearances
* Richard Gephardt/41 appearances
* Richard Lugar/36 appearances
And (no surprise) the most frequent pundits to tread the MTP boards were David Broder (396 times) and (until his despicable involvement in the Plame Case finally cost him his free pass) Novakula (247 times).

Old. White. Predictable. Centrist. Safe.

And, to no one’s surprise, it was a clubhouse that -- like all the other sideshow tents at the Mouse Circus -- leaned conspicuously to the Right.

(All charts from Media Matters here)

Second, Russert did not practice journalism so much as he perfected a new infotainment magic trick to take the place of journalism.

A ritual as rigid as High Mass.
Step One: The Sermon and The Lesson -- Roll out a guest. And, as Atriot Neponset once said so perfectly, drop out of a tree onto them with ten-year-old quotes. Which Russert would then read for forty minutes, and then say "Well?"

Step Two: The Call and Response -- Read off endless reams of polling data, and then say “Well?”

Step Three: The Choir –- The Matalin/Carville freak show are wheeled out to nod and wheeze and giggle and snark and affirm the Glorious Conventional Wisdom of it all.
Rinse and repeat, week in and week out: A computer with webcam reading LexisNexis entries would have accomplished the same function.

Third, well, in the end, when you sweep aside all of the thousands of sincere words spoken over the death of Tim Russert, the fact remains that only way to judge the value of the Spam factory is by the quality of it’s potted meats.

So…how many important national stories were ever rooted out and broken on Meet the Press? (And no, “being forced to testify about your own ignominious role in a major national security scandal” does not qualify as “breaking” a story. Neither does “acting as a launch pad for Administration Trial Balloons”)

How many traitorous douchebags were ever brought to book by a Russert journalistic crusade?

In a country where Russert is held out as the ne plus ultra of his profession, has the Mainstream Media been doing a consistently better or worse job of ferreting out the Truth over these last twenty years?

Take a wild guess: Have Americans grown more or less ignorant?

From the Boston Globe (h/t to the one-and-only Digby):
The dumbing down of voters

By Rick Shenkman | June 15, 2008

THE THOUGHT occurs to almost everybody, I would suppose, that politics today is conducted at a lower level than it used to be. Not many voted against William Howard Taft because he was fat or Abraham Lincoln because he was thin. One can't imagine Franklin Roosevelt being judged by how badly he bowled or how convincingly he knocked back a tumble of scotch. Indeed, studies show that the speeches presidents gave a half-century ago were pitched at the 12th-grade level - five grades above the level of speeches given by presidents over the last generation.

Which brings up a paradox. Decade by decade Americans are getting smarter and smarter, and decade by decade our politics is getting dumber and dumber. How can we explain it?

Unfortunately, what the polls show is that Americans cannot make up for their lack of basic knowledge even if they shrewdly employ shortcuts. The harsh truth is that ignorant voters are sitting ducks for wily politicians. This is why millions were so easily misled when the Bush administration dropped hints that Saddam Hussein played a role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. One study by the University of Maryland found that nearly 60 percent of Americans were convinced that Hussein was helping Al Qaeda when we undertook our invasion. A majority based their support for the war on this flagrant misunderstanding.

Why hasn't education helped voters become smarter about politics? Television is a big part of the explanation. Once television replaced newspapers as the chief source of news, this happened around 1965, shallowness was inescapable as Americans began judging politicians by how they looked and acted.
Yeah, Russert could make a crackpot like Perot look sweaty and addled. And he spanked that weak, little tub of mendacity named Scott McClellan, but remember that it was only after Scotty Dog himself decided to stop lying with every breath and write a confessional that the Russert Maneuver of waiving contradictory quotes at people and huffing out a Very Serious “J'Accuse!” could gain any traction.

For the causal and careless liar -- for the pipsqueak liar -- navigating the Russert Show could be genuinely uncomfortable. But against our nation’s Liars Royale -- against professionally and treasonably conscienceless men like Cheney or Bush of Rumsfeld -– Russert’s silly brand of “gotcha” was a joke.

They knew how his little card trick was performed and knew how to beat it. And so week after week after week, Administration heavies and their button men glided onto the set of Meet the Press, looked directly into the camera, lied their filthy asses off with clear eyes and dry brows, and then went away to rape the Constitution some more.

Which is why, as Dana Milbank wrote in the Washinton Post a year and a half ago, Dick Cheney thought he pwned Tim Russert.
In Ex-Aide's Testimony, A Spin Through VP's PR

By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 26, 2007; Page A01

Memo to Tim Russert: Dick Cheney thinks he controls you.

This delicious morsel about the "Meet the Press" host and the vice president was part of the extensive dish Cathie Martin served up yesterday when the former Cheney communications director took the stand in the perjury trial of former Cheney chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Flashed on the courtroom computer screens were her notes from 2004 about how Cheney could respond to allegations that the Bush administration had played fast and loose with evidence of Iraq's nuclear ambitions. Option 1: "MTP-VP," she wrote, then listed the pros and cons of a vice presidential appearance on the Sunday show. Under "pro," she wrote: "control message."

"I suggested we put the vice president on 'Meet the Press,' which was a tactic we often used," Martin testified. "It's our best format."

So, Washington insider...
Boy from Buffalo...
Network Vice President...

In the end, perhaps we can agree that Tim Russert was a Man of Many Names.

But “journalist” really wasn’t one of them.

Elsewhere at the Circus…

On “Face the Nation”

Gov. Bobby “Father Damien” Jindal, (R-La)spoke very reasonably about Barack Obama and John McCain and some other stuff...

...right up until he was asked about Evolution.

When it comes to Evolution...the Republican Governor of Louisiana thinks States should decide!

That kids should be exposed to “the very best thinking” on both sides. And then test those theories.

So the Republican Governor of Louisiana believes that the facts underpinning biology, geology, environmental chemistry, cosmology, genetics and a dozen other sciences …are merely articles of faith.

Matters of opinion. Like gravity. Or arithmetic. I mean, if the good people of Louisiana wake up tomorrow believing that, say, Long Division is Heathen or Fractions are the work of Lucifer ...why should their children be forced to endure some kind of elitist, liberal, Archimedio-Euclidean brainwashing!

Just to placate SomeWashingtonBureaucrat (which is now officially OneWord)!

And by the way, how exactly does one “test” Intelligent Design?

I mean, how can one ever know to a scientific certainty whether is it God’s will or mere biology that Republicans have tiny brains and tiny penises?

So, go Bobby go!

And then Newt!Fucking!Gingrich! explains that a Supreme Court decision which would limit the Crawford Dauphin’s ability to throw people into secret prisons forever without a hearing is…wait for it…worse than Dred Scott.

(Video and succulent commentary over at Crooks and Liars)

Newt says that “It may cost us a city” just because “five lawyers” (not judges – even though they serve on the Supreme Court – but five lawyers) want to let “any random, nut-case district judge” usurp the power of the Imperial President.

I think Newt Gingrich referring to anyone else on the face of the Earth as a "random nut-case" is the funniest thing in the world.

And I think that you could not find a more perfect example of just how fucked our media has become than the act of putting a sociopath like Newt Gingrich in front of a camera and treating him as anything other than a rabid dog.

On “Fox News Sunday” - Senator Byron Dorgan, (D-N.D). Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, (R-Exxon/Mobil) and Some Oil Wank talk about why the solution to every problem is drilling for more oil.

Wallace: The most obvious solution to the energy problem is…domestic drilling. Drilling the crap out of everything would “dramatically reduce” the price of oil. Why do Democrats hate America?

Dorgan: There is far more oil in the Gulf of Mexico than in ANWR, and I support drilling in the Gulf if we have to. ANWR was set aside by Dwight Eisenhower. And McCain voted against drilling there.

Hutchison: Must drill. And drill more. Environmentalists are cray-gee!

Wallace: You oil people have leases on 68 million acres of oil land. Why not drill there?

Oil Wank: Because Sweet Baby Jebus made oil hard to find. Hard! And we spend lots of money exploring and stuff…so…shut up!

Dorgan: There is nothing having anything to do with supply and demand that explains the high price of oil. This is being driven by speculation.

Hutchison: We need transparency. The only thing that will stop speculation is…more drilling!

driftglass: Drilling Is Magic. Like…Republican Jebus or tax cuts for billionaires. It solves all problems. It appeases all gods. It makes the sun to rise and set. Make the corn grow. The people of New Orleans and Burma and Iowa are all being punished for not drilling in ANWR.

Or something.

Wallace: What about your obscene profits?

Oil Wank: Yadda Yadda Yadda. We are penniless, I tells ya! I make nothing! Nothing! My children are in rags. My mother has to pick gobbets of discarded Hungry Man Salisbury Steaks out of dumpsters. My wife has to use a hand-me-down, steam-powered vibrator. If we drilled more…we’d make less profit. And then our profits wouldn’t be so grotesque.

Hutchison: The only “compromise” that will save America and stop the Evil Speculators…is more drilling,

Then an apparition that looked like Karl Rove floated onto the set

It could not have been the actual Karl Rove, because the actual Karl Rove is rotting away in the Treason Wing of some federal gray bar hotel, right?


On “The Chris Matthews Show”, David Broder wandered around the set, knocking over lights and asking strangers who was going to give him “sponge bath and pudding” now that Tim Russert had “moved to a very nice pundit farm in upstate New York”? Where (so Broder had been told) Russert was going to spend his days gamboling happily in the sun with other journalists.

Because as has been true for a long, long time now, no one wanted to burden the Dean of the Washington Press Corps with any ugly truths.

It was all very sad.

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 And that's the way it was, Sunday, June 15, 2008.

I Am The Liberal Media


bowtiejack said...

He was the Lindsy Graham of his trade.

Robt said...

And the Maverick and Graham relationship gave birth to the young Eye Patch McCain and Pig toed empty Greene.

You can now see why republicans so care of the unborn and use the out of the womb ones for target practice.

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