We'd planned to say only: "This is all you need to know about Tim Russert:" & copy & paste this:
Early last year, during the perjury trial of Bush administration aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a former press aide to Vice President Dick Cheney testified that she often tried to get officials on Russert's show."But while looking for that, we came across an expansion on the theme by Tim Rutten, who is, we believe, the Times' "media critic." We actually believe that "criticism" should come out of the barrel of a gun, Chairman Mao-stylee, but we'll just have to settle.
Meet the Press" was "our best format," she said, where the administration could reliably "control the message."
Watching the cable news networks in the hours after his death, one was struck by the outpouring of admiration and affection from across the political spectrum and from journalistic colleagues of every sort. It was impossible not to be struck -- once again -- by just how incestuous and claustrophobic the Washington-based nexus of politics and journalism has become.So there. Speak ill of the dead? Of course! They don't care any more. And we never did.
Thus, in all that gush across four networks in dozens and dozens of voices, hardly a word was spoken concerning Russert's role in the recent trial of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. That's odd because 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.
If Russert's legacy stands for anything, it's that journalists have an obligation to preserve as complete a record as possible -- and to hold those responsible for that record accountable. In the outpouring of grief, affection and fellow-feeling that followed his sudden death, that didn't happen. Perhaps that's understandable under the circumstances, or perhaps it's another insight into the limitations of the sort of "insider" journalism of which Russert was an exemplar.