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Sunday, 15 January 2006
Buffaloed by local boy - again
Topic: media criticism
Hometown loyalty can be treacherous. Look what it’s done to many Buffalonians, who go on and on about NBC newsman Tim Russert, the biggest mediocrity to come out of the Queen City since Grover Cleveland.

There he was this past Sunday morning – Russert, not Cleveland, unfortunately – enlightening a colleague on the narrow policy options facing the US and allies in their moves to stem Iran’s nuclear program.

According to TR – Russert, not Teddy Roosevelt, who rushed to William McKinley’s Buffalo deathbed in 1901 to grab that era’s oddly familiar imperial torch – we can do one (or more?) of three things. The US can pursue diplomatic action against Iran, with one and only one tolerable outcome, Iran’s capitulation. Or the US can attack Iran’s nuclear facilities as Israel did with the Iraq’s French-built nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981. Or the US can unleash Israel to attack Iran’s facilities.

End of story. No mention of alternatives like these: true diplomacy by the US, i.e. without implied threats of force; US support of multiparty negotiations toward general nuclear disarmament in the region and beyond (with unilateral removal of US nuclear-armed or -capable naval vessels from the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean as a nice opening gambit); US (and hopefully multiparty) rejection of "peaceful" nuclear power, with quick moves toward safe energy technologies to be shared with Iran and other developing nations.

None of these, though, are for Russert, who in a nice-guy, teddy-bear kind of way offers rationales for the raw projection of lethal force. Oh yes, the diplomatic option comes first on his list, but it's made clear that this is pro forma. When push comes to shove, might makes right.

In other times and places, such journalistic behavior has been described as collusion with war criminals. So it will be again, if justice makes a comeback.

Russert has invaded some liberal hearts by sounding tough, including that of The Nation’s David Corn, who’s described him, with reservations, as Sunday morning’s Grand Inquisitor.

Russert does often sound persistent. For example, last December he grilled (the word is relative) Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on presidential wiretaps and the “inaccurate” (his word) intelligence that led to the US invasion. He tried to pin Rice down on the naked illegality of wiretaps that Bush could easily have gotten authorized through the FISA law, a framework that allows almost total leeway. And he did cast doubt on the administration’s internal processes.

But did he challenge Rice on the legality of the invasion and occupation?

Are you kidding? He wouldn’t dare. His NBC bosses would have his head for thus alienating the dear Secretary, who would never cross the NBC threshold again.

So on and on Russert goes, every bit the noble pundit, sometimes the boy next door, sometimes sounding like an inquisitor but acting more like a courtier when the chips are down.

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 14:07 EST
Updated: Sunday, 15 January 2006 16:39 EST
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Sunday, 15 January 2006 - 14:51 EST

Name: Former Rochesterian
Home Page:

Jack, you picked the wrong mediocre Buffalo president to compare Tim Russert to. Millard Fillmore was the nonentity, not Cleveland, who was famously incorruptible, unlike the present pack of jackals in Washington. The New York Times endorsed Cleveland for president in 1884 by declaring three reasons for voting for him: "1. He is an honest man. 2. He is an honest man. 3. He is an honest man."

Russert's book appeared to be an exercise in stagecraft and mythmaking, like any other politico bio. I was struck by the strenuous efforts to canonize his honest, working class dad and the notable omission of his presumably honest, working class mom.

Sunday, 15 January 2006 - 17:40 EST

Name: jackbradiganspula
Home Page:

Thanks for the suggestion, FR/Betty. Yes, for mediocrity, MF was the dude. And let's give GC his due, as well: Like a good Democrat, he did sign off on the creation of Labor Day. On the other hand, he called in the troops against the Pullman strikers. Ouch. But I agree that Cleveland stood out for some personal attributes in a pretty dismal time... Why am I suddenly sensing the specter of Bill Clinton?

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