[Marxism] Cockburn on Russert

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jun 20 07:26:32 MDT 2008

Tim Russert Blew It on Iraq. So Why Are We Canonizing Him?
By Alexander Cockburn, The Nation
Posted on June 20, 2008, Printed on June 20, 2008

The delirium in the press at Tim Russert's passing has been strange. As 
a broadcaster he was not much better than average, which is saying very 
little. He could be a sharp questioner, but not when it really counted 
and when courage was required. He was tough with George Bush in a 
February 2004 interview. He taxed him with faking the reasons to attack 
Iraq. But in the years before the 2003 attack, I used to hear Russert 
being merciless to those questioning whether Saddam Hussein had the 
nukes and bioweapons alleged by the Bush Administration and its 
co-conspirators in the press, prominent among them Russert himself.

Russert and his staff ignored efforts by watchdogs like Sam Husseini and 
others to get him to stop telling lies to the effect that it was Saddam 
who threw out the UNSCOM weapons inspectors, whereas it was Richard 
Butler, the head of UNSCOM, who pulled out the inspectors, apparently at 
the instigation of the United States. As Husseini correctly writes, 
"This lie, echoed through much of the political-media system around the 
time Russert told it, helped set the stage for the invasion after 9/11."

If Russert had rocked the boat in any serious way he'd have had more 
enemies. The right-wingers didn't care for Walter Cronkite, but they had 
no problem with Russert. Rush Limbaugh nuzzled him respectfully on the 
air, and so did Don Imus. Russert was always there with his watering can 
to fertilize myths useful to the system. On Russert's memorial show 
Ronald Reagan glowed in memory, up there with FDR as the twentieth 
century's best-loved and most popular American President. Not true at 
all, as Russert -- trained to read polls by years of working for Mario 
Cuomo and Daniel Patrick Moynihan -- could have found out in five 
minutes if he'd wanted to. Reagan had a scrawny 52 percent average 
approval rating for his presidency, worse than JFK, LBJ, Eisenhower, 
Roosevelt and Johnson. His supposed "likability" was also hugely 
exaggerated. But the invention of RR as the toast of the ordinary folk 
was necessary to validate the disgusting pigout for the very rich he 
inaugurated, which continues to this day.

Similarly necessary has been the notion that if it means winning the 
"war on terror," ordinary Americans are OK with the President (along 
with the US Congress) making a bonfire of the Constitution and the Bill 
of Rights. Russert helped spread that lie too, even though polls 
dissected in numerous accounts by press watchdogs like FAIR have shown 
that a narrow majority of Americans hold contrary views on the matter.

Russert spent many years working for Moynihan, who played the greasiest 
cards in the political deck, whoring for the Israel lobby, race-baiting 
for Nixon. Few were more zealous than Russert in shredding anyone with 
the temerity to criticize Israel. Obama, now shuffling Moynihan's greasy 
deck with his Father's Day sermon about black responsibility, got a dose 
of Russert's own race-baiting earlier this year, with a ridiculous 
volley of questions about Farrakhan and Wright in the February 26 
debate. Any white telly pundit can make hay with Farrakhan, but when it 
came to high gasoline prices Russert was meek as a shoeshine boy on his 
show, lining up the oil execs and tugging his forelock.

After Russert's death the TV played over and over the clip of his 
interview with Dick Cheney, where the latter said US troops will be 
greeted as liberators. Russert didn't say, "What do you mean, Mr. VP? 
People historically despise occupying armies. Bombing historically does 
not win people to your side." It was a softball moment for Cheney. 
Russert was part of the amen chorus.

Now, after his death, in congratulating Russert, his eulogists in the 
press get to congratulate themselves. On Hardball, Chris Matthews 
decided to have a show much like the one he always has, stacked with 
Irish Catholic men. This time it was more self-conscious, but the 
self-consciousness of it only underscored the incredible skewed reality 
that the show presents day in and day out.

Matthews began with a prayer. "Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with 
Thee. [Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy 
womb, Jesus.]" Then he introduced guys who are on his show all the time, 
Mike Barnicle and Pat Buchanan. And the three of them had a kind of 
Irish wake on the air, laughing, remembering, talking about the 
importance of parochial school and the values imbued in Tim and all of 
them by the nuns. On and on they went, about Catholicism and the Irish, 
and the special quality of Irish Catholics as "truth tellers," as people 
who "get the bad guys" -- prosecutors, G-men and journalists. Russert 
was put right up there in the pantheon of FBI agents, without irony, 
people who delve for the truth, for the light, for the greater good 
against the "bad guys." Matthews used that phrase, "bad guys," over and 
over. Then he closed the segment with the other half of the prayer: 
"Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of 
our death."

Russert, they said, was the guy who always did it better. So it was as 
if the closing prayer put Tim right there by the side of Mary, an 
interlocutor to God for the lesser lights, the Chrises and Pats and 
Mikes, the "sinners" who only strive to be like him.

The TV carried live shots of Russert lying in state, and the mourners 
could pass by and merely touch the edge of his coffin for a cure, or 
hope for a cure. This after seven years of craven, culpable journalism 
across the mainstream board. No one at this point is remembering the 
reporters at Knight Ridder, who were among the few in the mainstream 
pre-war to hammer away at the WMD argument. Russert's 
colleague-survivors need him as a saint.

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