Tim Russert 1950-2008
One of the main objectives of my just recently ended vacation was to disconnect myself from the deranged nature of what passes for American journalism and try to decompress from all the glory hounds, talking heads, and assorted nuts that somehow convinced a desk bound executive or stoned producer that they looked good in front of a camera. For the most part I failed; try as I might the simple fact of being around other people I was unable not to over hear some items about the world outside the confines of the place Mickey and Minnie call home. However, upon hearing about the passing of Tim Russert I had prayed it was wrong or that I had misunderstood and that it involved someone else. None the less once it was confirmed the host of “Meet the Press” had died of a sudden massive heart attack I will admit that it was as if another sledgehammer had hit me in the chest. Mr. Russert for me was a stalwart of true journalism unwilling to bend to the degraded nature that typifies much of what passes for reporting these days. I’m not just writing about the propaganda that Fox Noise Channel spreads daily over the television and radio but the slick entertainment news and “fun” segments that even some of his colleagues at the NBC networks let through for various reasons. That is not the reason I’m writing about the man that passed away Friday. I’m writing this because he was a man that actually believed and felt something which, in my opinion, makes him a rarity to a great extent.All I will say is that far too many people in this country, in every walk of life, go through daily parroting a certain template or program about what they believe or what valves they report to hold. Both the conservative and liberal camps seem to be flushed with talking points the respective pundits expound on while not actually debating anything of substance. Neither side actually talks with the other exchanging ideas but in a general sense just wishes to shore up its members so they will not stray off the reservation. To a great extent it is as they really don’t believing anything except what has been passed down by some Ideological High Command.
Mr. Russert was NOT one of those people. Whether you agreed with him or not you would have to be blind, deaf, and dumb not to come away knowing in your soul that if he stated a fact or, in more of an opinionated moment, a belief that was what he knew or believed and that he had some evidence to back his statement up. Every time I watched him at the helm of a panel of pundits on “Meet the Press” I saw how he steered it to a true discussion of ideas never really giving those on the panel a chance to cling securely to easy brainless talking points. I felt this way even when he forced some political pundit I liked to actually use his or her brain and go beyond current political template. In addition, when he cornered a political figure with his or her own past words that went against a position they held then on his show many times you could see the stress and sweat on their faces.
Was he perfect? Hell no, and he would be the first to say it himself but in a world of Limbaughs, Hannitys, and O'Reillys for which facts are as slippery as the old Soviet Union's Pravda Mr. Russert was a rare breath of fresh clean air. His passing is a serious blow to American journalism and I'm sure the Rovian hyenas and all his kin will sleep a little more securely from now on.