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Conan remembers Tim:

Tim Russert 1950-2008

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(cross posted at Daily Kos)

First of all, speaking as a 55 year old man...WTF, Tim? I saw Andrea Mitchell's interview with your doctor and he said you had your blood pressure under control, your "cholesterol fractions were optimal" and you worked out on the treadmill on a regular basis. Brokaw said he and your other friends were alarmed about your recent weight gain and tried to encourage you lose some of it by making it into a competition. And/But in the end it was a chunk of cholesterol plaque that busted loose in one of your arteries, clogging the pipe to your heart -- and that was all she wrote. I'm really sorry it ended so early for you. And if it makes you feel any better, I now view your life -- career aside -- as a cautionary tale.

Speaking of your career, allow me to begin by saying that I always liked your geniality. Your enthusiasm for politics was legendary. I knew you started out as a political aide in DC but what I didn't "get" was that you were Sen. Dan Moynihan's chief of staff (for crying out loud) in the late 70's/early 80's. That would have put you on Capitol Hill around the same time that Chris Matthews was on Jimmy Carter's White House staff and later when Matthews was Tip O'Neill's chief of staff. Did you know him then? If so, what must a couple of guys in their late 20's have talked about back then -- could you have ever imagined the roles you'd play in politics 30 years later?

[Note: speaking of Chris Matthews, his remembrance of you was a thing to behold last night. As always, his heart was on his sleeve. As always, you could read his face like a book. And, as he spoke from Paris in the middle of the night, his words revealed as much about him -- as always -- as they did about you. It was vintage Chris Matthews. He was in equal measure distraught, self-pitying, bitter about how he (Chris) was never one of the cool kids and you were, and, in the end, how much he admired you and would miss you. It seemed heartfelt, shocking and genuine all at the same.]

But, here's the hard part of this piece: Tim, I didn't much care for you as a journalist. As is usually the case with people, your greatest strength -- your genuine affability and ability to establish rapport with your subjects -- was also your greatest weakness. Your standards were compromised by your seeming desire to remain one of the in-crowd in Washington, one of the powdered, pampered poodles of the press. You were too "high school" Tim. You settled for being a big man on campus; you seemed a bit too pleased with yourself for being a member of the Don Imus He-Man Girl-Haters Club. You sucked up too often to those in power and it wasn't pretty.

[Scooter] Libby's conviction on perjury and obstruction of justice charges was, in some large part, based on Russert's testimony. Like former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, Russert was one of the high-level Washington journalists who came out of the Libby trial looking worse than shabby.

Libby testified before the grand jury investigating the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity that he first learned she worked for the intelligence agency from Russert during a phone call on another matter. Russert took the stand to contradict Libby only because he'd been subpoenaed -- a summons he and NBC had strenuously resisted on grounds of journalistic privilege.

As it emerged under examination, however, Russert already had sung like a choirboy to the FBI concerning his conversation with Libby -- and had so voluntarily from the first moment the Feds contacted him. All the litigation was for the sake of image and because the journalistic conventions required it.

But you're gone now and, all that aside, there is no denying it: you'll be missed. You were, like another one of your heroes, the straw that mixed the drink. Every election night we looked forward to your analysis (despite the fact that you had a face made for radio, your ginormous jack-o-lantern of a head reminding me of Chucky). You brought with it equal parts of depth and sheer enthusiasm for the game. I liked that a lot -- and respected it. Your coverage of the 2000 election-night from Hell is legendary; your whiteboard ("Florida Florida Florida") is in the Smithsonian; and your description of "Red America Blue America" has, for good or bad, survived the test of time.

So, rest in peace, Tim. I hope your wife and son -- and father -- will also find some measure of peace after your passing.

And say hi to Samuel Tilden for me.

I've always felt that the job of government is to keep an eye on business and the job of the independent press is to keep an eye on government. So when I see the traditional media being lazy and self-loathing (handing the cudgel to right-wingers so they can be clubbed mercilessly) it bothers me.

Now, in just the latest episode of a news industry that cares more for ratings (and profits) than they do for truth, we're reading about the Pentagon-orchestrated campaign to use "miltary analysts" with the appearance of objectivity to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance:

The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.

By co-opting the role of an independent press in this way, we've taken one more large and consequential step toward fascism -- a system where government and business are indistinguishable and the interests of the people are subverted or ignored entirely.

Glenn Greenwald:

One of the most significant political stories of this decade, if not this generation -- the media's full-scale complicity with the Government in the run-up to the Iraq war -- has never been meaningfully discussed or examined on any establishment television network, including cable shows. While piecemeal quibbles of media coverage can be heard (of the type [Washington Post's Howard] Kurtz typically spouts, or the Limbaugh-driven complaint about the "liberal media"), no fundamental critique of the role the media plays, the influence of its corporate ownership, its incestuous relationship with and dependence on government power -- among the most influential factors driving our political life -- are ever heard.

Hopefully, the role, influence, and ratings of the traditional media have lessened as the role of interactive media has grown. Blogs, wikis, social networks, video-sharing -- all of these non-traditional media (and more) have made it possible for an alternative narrative to emerge that highlights how our own government -- and the independent press -- has failed us.

However, and in the meantime, we're awash in bogus "scandals," chief among them whether or not Barack Obama secretly wants to "kill whitey." I presume that these stories are playing out 24/7 because they are (wait for it) good for ratings. High ratings, of course, lead to higher advertising revenues. On the other hand, reporting the truth might lead to real change --- which, at best, may have no impact on the news media's bottom line and may actually hurt it.

So the next time you hear about a politican who might be untrustworthy because he doesn't wear a flag pin, remember how the Pentagon supplied the generals (all of whom wore brass stars on their shoulders) and how they lied about how we're doing in the war -- and how the traditional media put them on the air in the first place.

  • Good news, bad news: First, the good news: Democratic voters in my home district, Lousiana's 6th (the fightin sixth!), outnumbered Republican voters 48 thousand to 38 thousand during Saturday's primary to fill a seat left vacant when Republican Richard Baker skipped town to become a million dollar lobbyist. The bad news? My guy, Andy Kopplin, didn't make the run-off.

  • Scott Pelley of 60 Minutes totally lets McCain off the hook for his flip flop on torture.

  • Too good to hope for: William "The Bloody" Kristol wants to see McCain pick Clarence Thomas as his VP. Please please please pretty please with sugar on top!

  • Speaking of daydreams, how's this: Obama picks Clinton as his VP and then trounces McCain 538-0 in the Electoral College -- then picks McCain as his Secretary of Defense.

  • Yet more daydreams: Mark Penn says Obama's momentum is "broken."

  • Sir Paul McCartney signs a deal to license the Beatles catalog to iTunes. Or did he? Either way, all that's left is for American Idol to air it's Lennon-McCartney theme week and reveal who the mentor is. Then younger viewers will hear the stuff it on iTunes! Smart guy, that Macca.

President Bartlet delivers his State of the Union message. The scene in the House antechamber (starts about 1:30 in) still makes my heart skip a beat. And of course the cold smash opening is a classic.

Prior to Bartlet's first SOTU speech, he briefs the Assistant Undersecretary of Mining who, according to custom, is the sole member of the cabinet to remain behind -- in case the US Capitol is destroyed in an attack.

It should come as no surprise that the partisan Republican hacks at Fox News want us to believe they are impartial -- "We report, you decide." What. Ever.

What's interesting is how much time and effort they spend scrubbing negative references to themselves out of Wikipedia AND inserting all sorts of negative references to their political enemies into the open-source encyclopedia.

The most interesting thing of all? With newly-available tools, you can actually see what Fox News has done, line-by-line, paragraph-by-paragraph.

Why should you care? Because Fox News is the official house organ of the modern Republican party. Tony Snow is the White House press secretary, Bush and Cheney only do interviews with the likes of Bill O'Reilly and Neal Cavuto, and Rudy Giuliani and Roger Ailes are BFFs.

Fair and balanced? Pravda never had it so good. You remember Pravda, right?

Pravda (Russian: Правда, "The Truth") was a leading newspaper of the Soviet Union and an official organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party between 1912 and 1991...The offices of the newspaper were transferred to Moscow on March 3, 1918 when the Soviet capital was moved there. Pravda became an official publication, or "organ", of the Soviet Communist Party. Pravda became the conduit for announcing official policy and policy changes and would remain so until 1991. Subscription to Pravda was mandatory for state run companies, the armed services and other organizations until 1989.

Future historians will point to the day that cable and network news divisions were directed to support themselves and that the the free lunch was over and they'll say that was the day that our country took it's first steps to hell ... and in a handbasket, too!

Seriously: when news needs to score in the ratings to stay on the air, that's when you get wall-to-wall coverage of Lindsay Lohan (over 6 thousand stories) instead of Alberto Gonzalez (less than 400).

Of course, who am I to talk? Of all the sharp, insightful, biting, taut and gripping commentary you'll find here, it's Chuck Norris and Kucinich's wife that puts us on the map.

  • Patrick Fitzgerald for ... Attorney General?
  • Hillary asks SecDef Gates if he supports Under Secretary Edelman's smear of her. I think she's being far too 19th-century-polite. I would have gone all Harry Truman on his -- and Edeleman's -- ass.
  • And while we're at it, let's define what a smear really is: attacking someone's reputation instead of their message.
  • Colbert finally gets his free iPhone.
  • Wake me up when September ends. LIke, for example, in November.
  • A couple of weeks ago, dick Cheney declared there were four branches of government. Now, the White House is claiming there are only two.
  • And in a related story, Sen. Leahy points out that charging Harriet Miers with "inherent contempt" of Congress would likely result in a trial in the Senate presided over by -- wait for it -- dick Cheney.
  • Saturday night at midnight the last Harry Potter book will be released from captivity. Or not. The NYTimes has already gotten a copy -- from a legit source, they say -- and published a review. Sorry, no link -- Miss Julie made me promise. JK Rowling is shocked -- and saddened. Noting the tremendous costs associated with sequestering the book copies until the witching hour ($20 million, not counting Fedex shipping costs), Seth Godin has a solution, should a publishing phenomenon like this occur ever again. "Books are great at holding memories," he says, "They're lousy at keeping secrets."

Moyers Does Murdoch

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"If Rupert Murdoch were the angel Gabriel, you still wouldn't want him to own the sun, the moon and the stars. That's too much prime real estate for even the pure of heart."

When it comes time to talk straight about the "the cascading series of mergers, buyouts and other financial legerdemain that are making a shipwreck of journalism," there isn't a better commentator to turn to than Bill Moyers.

And if there is anyone who personifies this corrosive effect, it's Rupert Murdoch.

So on Friday evening's Bill Moyers' Journal, Moyers takes Murdoch, the man who "hires lobbyists the way Imelda Marcos bought shoes and stacks them in his cavernous closet along with his conscience," to the woodshed.

  • Karl Rove has been among a small group of Bushies visiting Presidential libraries in preparation for planning the one for his boss. When I bumped into Rove last week, the flight we were both on was going to Atlanta, which (coincidentally?) is the location for the Carter Library.

  • Jane Hamsher asks the musical question, "Who Is The Scariest GOP Presidential Candidate?" Rudy's nuts so he's plenty scary. But Romney is scary because he is willing to say just about anything to get elected. [P.S. Is it just me or is Mitt Romney filling a hole left by George Allen, i.e., tall-dark-and-handsome?]

  • Sen. Barack Obama's Secret Service codename is "Renegade." Hillary's is "Evergreen," left over from the Clinton White House years. The other candidates will have to wait and see if they get their own handles. This article details the codenames for past and present POTUS' and candidates for POTUS. Here's an interesting bit of trivia:
    [A]ccording to a Secret Service spokesman, all code names are chosen by military officials, suggesting that they should not be examined too closely for deeper meaning.

  • NBC seems interested in Jon Stewart. Stewart's contract with Comedy Central is up in 2008.


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