Thursday, June 26, 2008

Tim Russert – RIP

Ben Bradley, éminence grise of Washington, DC press corps, commented that the death of NBC TV journalist Tim Russert was treated as a state funeral. Bradley, who for many years was the silent keeper of Watergate's Deep Throat secret, was right. Surprisingly, usually anything said about an Irishman concerning another Irishman has to be discounted for blarney content at least 45% before you take it to the bank.

Russert's lie in state at the Washington Cathedral and the Kennedy Center was the scene of his memorial ceremonies. The Military District of Washington provided a uniform color guard for the memorial ceremony even though Russert never wore a uniform or held a government-elected office. Without question the man had connections with the high and the mighty – a double rainbow blossomed in the sky over the Kennedy Center as his memorial service finished – a big smile by St. Patrick – that is what the superstitious Irishmen will believe.

Apart from accepting the tragic loss of a man of substance much before his time, it was a loss to the body politic of the US. Maybe Russert stood out so much because his cohorts were, comparatively, pygmies – in the Kingdom of the Blind the one-eyed man is king. I identified with him as a Catholic, with ethnic origins and working class background – there were no Irishmen in my neighborhood, just lots of Poles, Slovaks, Hungarians, Croatians, Serbs and Ukrainians.

Unlike the Irish, our Eastern Europe coteriere detested politicians of every stripe. Graft and corruption in Northern Indiana at that time was run out of Chicago's Cook County. There was a Slovak who ran for mayor who gave a speech; said, HE WOULD BUILD PARKS, SO THE BOYS WOULD NOT HAVE TO PLAY WITH THEIR BALLS IN THE STREET. Center to the life of the the community were the parish churches. In mine there was a display of three large photographs on the backdrop of the stage in the parish hall – in center was Father Karch our priest – on one side of him was Abe Lincoln and the other side George Washington. We called each other by our last names; took me a long time to break the habit – one habit I did not break was my antipathy for politicians; that may explain why those with Eastern European backgrounds do not hold much political power in the US.

For better or worse, we all got along. Went to each others' ethnic picnics in the summers, bazaars in the winter, and played BINGO every Friday night. The guy who called the BINGO had more respect than the mayor; we intermarried. The biggest problem in our narrow society was that the priests chased their housekeepers – now they they chase little boys; bigger sins for bigger times? I am not the least bitter; l do not cling to my guns or my religion, but they are still stashed in my past to be dusted off if needed. By the way, Obama cut his political teeth in Chicago's Cook County. This man understands well.

Russert wore his origins as a badge of courage – a sense of pride and honor. This was reflected in his work and no bullshit attitude. It gave him authenticity unlike the many of his colleagues who skip through their lives conforming to latest external values. Can you imagine if the world was filled with Larry Kings, Tom Brokaws, Chris Matthews; all ethnic guys who sipped the cool aid of political correctness? They are like awkward cows wearing saddles – they stand for book promotions and analyzing media generated polls.

As the Washington, DC NBC Bureau Chief, Russert directed other journalists. During the week-long tribute to him on MSNBC, it became clear that Russert exerted enormous control over his people; he would prep them before press conferences that almost amounted to a rehearsal. My sense is that this curbed initiative, imposed self-censorship and inhibited follow-up questions not cleared by the boss. You have to wonder who gave Russert the marching orders that he passed on. It would explain the media failures on the run up to the Iraq war and the avoidance to discuss the deleterious impact of Israel on our foreign policy. When will the gutless wonders of the press use their platform to find out what the US intends to do with an embassy five times the size of the Pentagon in Baghdad and the sixty-some US bases built in Iraq? For starters, just ask Bomb Bomb McCain the next time he is in your studios or on the road in his straight talk express.

Given my ethnic background, Russert bored me with constant reference to his Irish pub culture. He made me cringe over his mawkish coverage of his wunderkind. And his corny promotion of a second-rate football team from Podunk was vexing. Despite this, his magnetism and professionalism drew me from bed early every Sunday morning to sit and watch with fascination as he remorselessly questioned his guests. He had the highest professionalism in a ragged trade.

Farewell bright shining IRISHMAN. I will sleep later on Sunday; I will know less. The US media will sink to lower standards. Your Buffalo Bills may be sold to Little Rock, Arkansas. If you are in heaven, you might intervene,. If you can stage rainbows, you can do anything. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post. Of course he made both Bush and McCain look dumb. I hope it did not shorten his life span.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home