[Marxism] Tim Russert
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
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
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.
also see: http://wsws.org/articles/2008/jun2008/russ-j16.shtml
More information about the Marxism