June 14, 2008

"But I can't think of any time in my life when I've felt so awful about the death of a single individual I've never met."

Jac has a nice, long post explaining why Tim Russert meant so much to him.
I ... had to watch ["Meet the Press"]. Every Sunday. He just made the news seem so much more serious, even momentous, than anyone else did.

Above all, he forced our leaders to explain themselves -- to answer the tough questions that everyone was raising about them.

And he did this with everyone, never seeming to discriminate based on party or ideology. I remember when John Edwards had a disastrous performance on Meet the Press in the 2004 race -- many commentators saw it as a major obstacle to him in trying to win the Democratic nomination. And I remember seeing him interview John McCain back in 2006, when he was just a "probable presidential candidate" .... Without being unfair, and even though he gave McCain ample time to defend himself, Russert left no doubt that McCain had shifted far to the right of his maverick/centrist past in preparation for the Republican primaries. At the end of the interview, McCain acknowledged his discomfort: "I haven’t had so much fun since my last interrogation."
Much more at the link.


rhhardin said...

I can see from the link that I would have to be much different from the way I am, to care about Tim Russert.

It's not just a matter of a close call.

It's nice he's skeptical about celebrity death bathos, but I don't see the exception.

rhhardin said...

Above all, he forced our leaders to explain themselves -- to answer the tough questions that everyone was raising about them.

The leaders are forced to speak soap opera because of the media, and them because of their moron audience.

Otherwise there would be no need for the Russert-style tough question, which typically just introduces another soap opera line.

Ridicule of the media audience is necessary. That's what should replace Meet the Press.

Den Beste had the best war analysis I've seen, here.

More links from this page.

Is there an audience for that story line rather than soap opera? Probably not.

Nobody gets credit for asking Den Beste tough questions, because there's no room left for tough questions. The whole thing is tough questions.

His audience is not the media's.

rhhardin said...

Put it this way: the tough question proves it's soap opera.

Ritmo Re-Animated said...

I think this nails exactly why I'm having a hard time understanding the extraordinary degree of personalization of Russert's death, rh - his craft was ultimately about political journalism as a soap opera, and the pinnacle of it at the highest levels, no less. Others have engaged political journalism as soap opera, but with a heavy dose of satire, irony or irreverence thrown in - never with the sense of seriousness that Russert's presence was somehow supposed to impart to it.

Are people seriously this starved for the televised presence of a nice, congenial bloke in their lives to help cope with and make sense of the events of the day? Wilson was at least as kind and ten times as wise, but knew better than to engage in the folly of imparting gravitas on to the artificially high and mighty. Maybe the difference has something to do with Wilson always being behind a fence and never going out of his way to show off his beer-drinking, sports-team-loving "credentials".

Jake said...

NBC News has no one who can replace Tim Russert. Although it makes no difference as NBC News' audience is infintestimal.

KLDAVIS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KLDAVIS said...

I am upset about Phil Hartman's death to this day...I was 17 years old, and at the time all I knew was that I'd never see Lionel Hutz on The Simpsons again. In college, the depth of his comedic genius became apparent, and the feeling of loss grew.

Ritmo Re-Animated said...

Jake, I honestly don't think it's that hard to find someone civil. What's hard is finding someone who can remain civil while furthering a dysfunctional political dialectic, and pull that off as if it were deserving of some kind of accolade. This is in no small measure an important reason for why the audiences of NBC, CBS, etc., have become infinitesimally small.

Yeah, Phil Hartman's death was definitely shocking.

Unknown said...

Russert always knew which side of the bread was buttered.

Trooper York said...

Phil Hartman made people laugh. He is missed.

Sloanasaurus said...

Russert's death is indeed a blow to truth. He was really one of the few in the mainstream media who had the gravitas to ask Obama real questions.

Bob said...

Tim Russert was a decent guy and a good journalist. Guests knew he was goning to ask some serious & tough questions, was going to show their previous statements, and wasn't goning to drive an agenda. He was also not going to be a jerk while doing it. He loved those "Old fashioned values" like country & family. He also didn't portray politicians as evil though he would allow them to hang themselves with their own words. Look around at the other TV "news shows" and the contrast is apparent.

I enjoyed and respected his show and the manner in which he moderated it. And I thought he was a real decent person. However the media reporting on this has suck into a self-congradulatory circle jerk. I can't help but think he would be a bit embarressed by how the media is going on. My wishes go out to his family because it must be especially painful for this to have happened on Father's Day weekend given his obvious celebration of what fatherhood meant to him.

John Stodder said...

From looking at the comments section on many blogs and news sites about Russert's death, one comes to the inescapable conclusion that, above all, left-wingers resented his greatest attribute, "forc(ing) our leaders to explain themselves." It's all well and good if he's probing Cheney or Bush; in fact, it was never enough, therefore making Russert complicit, allegedly, in the deaths of a million Iraqis (they actually say this, and if you call them on it, spew obscenities back at you). But let him ask the same questions of John Kerry, or Barack Obama, or Hillary Clinton, or Howard Dean, and suddenly his probing questions are sleazy "gotcha" journalism.

Take note, folks. Fascism is trying to come to America, and it is coming from the left. Maybe Russert died from a broken heart, seeing the foolishness of supposedly educated people comparing him to Hitler. That's so absurd, I'm sure Russert took no insult from it. Instead, he would bemoan how the liberals he thought of as his friends and compadres had become such monsters, and began to fear for his country's future.

John Stodder said...

P.S. I've seen Jon Stewart's supposedly great, historic comment to Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala, "you're hurting America," repeated several times in the anti-Russert comments, as if that applied to him as well.

Stewart is part of the problem. His show is also about how asking tough questions of the wrong people is bad form. That's really his main joke, isn't it?

blake said...

I still miss Phil Hartman.

Not only when I see "Lionel Hutz" but also when I see "Zapp Brannigan", the role written for him that he never got to play.

Joe said...

I suppose I must be alone in my dislike for Russert. For every good interview he did, there were dozens where he lobbed softballs, asked stupid questions and/or got obsessed with irrelevant side issues. I also found him to be tremendously smug.

Trooper York said...

You are not alone.

John Stodder said...

Look, the fact that his death affected people isn't the same thing as saying he was the greatest imaginable journalist. He was good. Sometimes he was great. Sometimes he was lousy.

It's just striking to me that his death would be seen by so many as a good moment to almost beg for media censorship due to inappropriate questions that make certain favored candidates look bad. Combined with the crudeness and almost psychotic blame-mongering, as if Russert is wholly responsible for the war in Iraq, the hatred of anyone who dares compare past positions of politicians with present policies leaves me thinking that the First Amendment is on its way out, with the compassionate, enlightened ones playing usher.