Can we stop worshipping Tim Russert yet?

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From every indication, the late NBC journalist Tim Russert was a decent guy. That ought to be enough. Let his family and friends remember him and celebrate his life in private, and let it rest. The way the mainstream media turned the unexpected death of this really quite average TV newsman into a syrupy, weeklong eulogy was grotesque, as if the national press corps has lost any sense of proportion. Their maudlin spectacle - complete with live TV coverage of mourners passing by Russert's body, lying in state like a deceased President - was a jaw-dropping indication of how self-important many national media figures really are. Maybe they needed to mourn Russert so openly as a counter to the increased recent criticisms for having been Bush's enablers in the run-up to the war. God knows, Russert was one of the worst. His hyped reputation for "tough questioning" rarely applied to interviews with Bush administration officials. When it was time for Russert to speak truth to the White House's power, he instead rolled over, getting up only long enough to pitch another softball question. It was on Russert's show that Cheney said US troops in Iraq "will be greeted as liberators," without a shred of pushback from his host. Yes, he pressed Bush in 2004 about the Preznit's phony reasons for attacking Iraq, but before the invasion, Russert pilloried anyone who questioned the wisdom of those same phony reasons. Afterward, he ridiculed anyone who questioned administration policies of spying on Americans and generally using the Constitution as toilet paper. Russert hammered Barack Obama about comments from Louis Farrakhan, which Obama had not sought out, but, as columnist Alexander Cockburn points out, "when it came to high gasoline prices Russert was meek as a shoeshine boy, lining up the oil execs and tugging his forelock." Now, we can see Russert's death and funeral as the way the national press corps saw it: a chance to redeem themselves by promoting one of their own to journalistic sainthood. After all, Russert was one of the most high-profile members of the club, that small group of overpaid talking heads who see the world as something that revolves around them.


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