[Marxism] Tim Russert

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jun 16 07:31:21 MDT 2008

Tim Russert In Retrospect
by Louis Proyect

(Swans - June 16, 2008)   Tim Russert, the dean of inside-the-beltway 
television news shows, died on June 13, 2008, at the age of 58 from a 
massive heart attack. Notwithstanding the reverential coverage on 
television and in newspapers, his career was symptomatic of everything 
that is wrong with American journalism.

Like George Stephanopoulos, who moderates a competing Sunday morning 
news show on the ABC network, Russert began as a political operative. 
Shortly after graduating from law school in 1976, Russert worked on 
Daniel Patrick Moynihan's senatorial campaign in New York State. After 
Moynihan's election, Russert was promoted to chief of staff. Moynihan 
had been Richard Nixon's top domestic adviser, calling for confrontation 
with the USSR and Third-World countries. He was also notorious for 
sending a memo to Nixon stating that "the issue of race could benefit 
from a period of 'benign neglect'. The subject has been too much talked 
about....We may need a period in which Negro progress continues and 
racial rhetoric fades." Given Moynihan's dubious credentials, it 
appeared a natural fit for somebody like Russert who would carve out a 
television career based on deference to the rich and the powerful.

Russert's next political job was serving as counselor to New York State 
Governor Mario Cuomo from 1983-84, a smooth-talking liberal not so 
nearly as toxic as Moynihan. In late 1984, Russert left politics behind 
and became a vice president of NBC news. Seven years later he became 
moderator of "Meet the Press," a show that began on the radio in 1945 
and switched to television two years later, where it is the 
longest-running in history.

For the entire time up until 1991, when Russert became host, the show 
was very similar to the PBS NewsHour -- a snooze-inducing series of 
interviews with top government officials. Russert, trained as an 
attorney, livened things up by employing a prosecutorial style with 
government officials, at least when public opinion favored such an 
approach. His goal was to reveal inconsistencies in their current stand 
on issues versus what they might have said some years earlier so as to 
yield the impression that they were "flip-floppers." Russert's interview 
with Senator John Kerry during the 2004 campaign was typical.

     MR. RUSSERT: Before we take a break, I want to talk about Vietnam. 
You are a decorated war hero of Vietnam, prominently used in your 
advertising. You first appeared on MEET THE PRESS back in 1971, your 
first appearance. I want to roll what you told the country then and come 
back and talk about it:

     (Videotape, MEET THE PRESS, April 18, 1971):

     MR. KERRY (Vietnam Veterans Against the War): There are all kinds 
of atrocities and I would have to say that, yes, yes, I committed the 
same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed in 
that I took part in shootings in free-fire zones. I conducted harassment 
and interdiction fire. I used 50-caliber machine guns which we were 
granted and ordered to use, which were our only weapon against people. I 
took part in search-and-destroy missions, in the burning of villages. 
All of this is contrary to the laws of warfare. All of this is contrary 
to the Geneva Conventions and all of this ordered as a matter of written 
established policy by the government of the United States from the top 
down. And I believe that the men who designed these, the men who 
designed the free-fire zone, the men who ordered us, the men who signed 
off the air raid strike areas, I think these men, by the letter of the 
law, the same letter of the law that tried Lieutenant Calley, are war 

     (End videotape)

     MR. RUSSERT: You committed atrocities.

     SEN. KERRY: Where did all that dark hair go, Tim? That's a big 
question for me. You know, I thought a lot, for a long time, about that 
period of time, the things we said, and I think the word is a bad word. 
I think it's an inappropriate word. I mean, if you wanted to ask me have 
you ever made mistakes in your life, sure. I think some of the language 
that I used was a language that reflected an anger. It was honest, but 
it was in anger, it was a little bit excessive.

     MR. RUSSERT: You used the word "war criminals."

     SEN. KERRY: Well, let me just finish. Let me must finish. It was, I 
think, a reflection of the kind of times we found ourselves in and I 
don't like it when I hear it today. I don't like it, but I want you to 
notice that at the end, I wasn't talking about the soldiers and the 
soldiers' blame, and my great regret is, I hope no soldier -- I mean, I 
think some soldiers were angry at me for that, and I understand that and 
I regret that, because I love them. But the words were honest but on the 
other hand, they were a little bit over the top. And I think that there 
were breaches of the Geneva Conventions. There were policies in place 
that were not acceptable according to the laws of warfare, and everybody 
knows that. I mean, books have chronicled that, so I'm not going to walk 
away from that. But I wish I had found a way to say it in a less 
abrasive way.

     MR. RUSSERT: But, Senator, when you testified before the Senate, 
you talked about some of the hearings you had observed at the winter 
soldiers meeting and you said that people had personally raped, cut off 
ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human 
genitals and on and on. A lot of those stories have been discredited, 
and in hindsight was your testimony...

     SEN. KERRY: Actually, a lot of them have been documented.

     MR. RUSSERT: So you stand by that?

Russert pursued this dogged line of questioning for several minutes 
longer with the clear intention of putting Kerry on the spot for having 
the temerity to call attention to war crimes in Vietnam in 1971. His 
prosecutorial style earned him the reputation of being a bulldog, but 
somehow he lacked both bark and bite when the interviewees were members 
of the Bush administration prior to the invasion of Iraq.

full: http://www.swans.com/library/art14/lproy46.html

also see: http://wsws.org/articles/2008/jun2008/russ-j16.shtml

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