Dan Froomkin on What’s Wrong with Tim Russert
I grew up in the 1960’s thinking Meet the Press was a first class show on the issues of the day. Over the past few years, I have watched its current host ruin this once great program. But I should just turn the microphone over to a real journalist:
If you’re a journalist, and a very senior White House official calls you up on the phone, what do you do? Do you try to get the official to address issues of urgent concern so that you can then relate that information to the public? Not if you’re NBC Washington bureau chief Tim Russert. When then-vice presidential chief of staff Scooter Libby called Russert on July 10, 2003, to complain that his name was being unfairly bandied about by MSNBC host Chris Matthews, Russert apparently asked him nothing. And get this: According to Russert’s testimony yesterday at Libby’s trial, when any senior government official calls him, they are presumptively off the record. That’s not reporting, that’s enabling.
Dan is not just going over Tim Russert:
And the behavior of elite members of Washington’s press corps – sometimes appearing more interested in protecting themselves and their cozy “sources” than in informing the public – is also being exposed for all the world to see. For Russert, yesterday’s testimony was the second source of trial-related embarrassment in less than two weeks. The first came when Cathie Martin, Cheney’s former communications director, testified that the vice president’s office saw going on Russert’s “Meet the Press” as a way to go public but “control [the] message.” In other words: Sure, there might be a tough question or two, but Russert could be counted on not to knock the veep off his talking points – and, in that way, give him just the sort of platform he was looking for.
In other words, the NBC wing of Faux News. This is the same Russert who went “no, no, no, no, no” to Howard Dean back during the 2004 campaign when Dean got the number of troops in Iraq correct. And there was a second “no, no, no, no, no” when Dean answered one of Russert’s Social Security questions correctly. But I guess we should forgive this last one as Russert is about as stupid on the Social Security issue as it gets – even if he pretends he’s an expert (expert at reader Karl Rove spin perhaps).
But go back to those Russert interviews of Dick Cheney and watch how many times the Vice President has flat out lied to the host of Meet the Press. Why does Cheney lie to Mr. Russert? Because he knows that when he does so – Russert will say “thank you Mr. Vice President for sharing your views”.
Memo to NBC News – fire Tim Russert TODAY and hire someone who can restore Meet the Press to where it used to be when I was young.