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Paul Hayden

Tim Russert-Gone and the Mold Broken

June 16, 2008

The shocking, untimely death of Tim Russert, NBC News Washington bureau chief and anchor of the long-running Meet the Press, is a sad day for those who value true journalism versus the "drive-by" kind we so often watch and read these days. Although he was a life-long Democrat, Russert did a lot during his life to make liberals angry, so he must have been doing something right.

In order to truly appreciate what Russert brought to the table in his career, we need to look, overall, at where the profession of journalism stands. So much of what passes for "journalism" these days is really half-witted propaganda that never veers from what it believes to be the unshakable premises and principles of the liberal faith:

  • Abortion on demand is perfectly normal and acceptable.
  • Homosexuality including gay marriage is perfectly normal and acceptable; just another lifestyle choice.
  • Global warming is real; anyone who doesn't think so is also the type who denies the Holocaust or that Bill Clinton was a great and maligned president.
  • The United States, in terms of its morality and ethical behavior on the world stage, should always be put on the defensive and be presumed guilty until proven innocent.
  • Corporate America is a font of evil in this country. A corollary to this is, the more profitable the corporation, the more evil it is.
  • Liberals are not to be challenged on any of the above, or much of anything else for that matter.

The nice thing about Tim Russert was, despite his Democrat leanings, he did not necessarily buy into all of the above premises.  He was perfectly willing to challenge the cherished beliefs of the Washington elite when others would not. A recent example was the Democrat debate a couple of months ago when Russert challenged Sen. Obama to explain receiving support from the notorious "Minister" Louis Farrakhan. While most others would not have touched such a radioactive subject, Russert was more than willing to raise it; somewhat like waving a red sheet in front of a mad bull.

Unlike most other interviewers who either puffball their way through their chats with fellow liberals or bring out their inner Doberman when interviewing conservatives (Olbermann as in Doberman has a nice ring to it), Russert tried his best to be tough but fair with everyone. His method of raising prior contradictory statements to contrast the current positions of interviewees was particularly effective with politicians of the flip-flopping ilk, of which there are many. And, unlike others who tried to get tough but let the subject stonewall and spin and wear them down, Russert kept pummeling the same questions until he got some sort of response besides the usual talking points. It was truly a breath of fresh air to have someone in the Washington press corps who would actually treat a liberal politician like a responsible, accountable adult and expect them to respond as such.

As one who grew up in a blue-collar family in a blue-collar city, Russert never forgot nor strayed away from the value of hard work. His exhaustive preparation for each program and interview was legendary in the business. His work ethic and ability to take less experienced people under his wing and mentor them are hallmarks of his career and a terrific legacy that he has left to his journalistic sisters and brethren.

It says a lot when politicians from both sides of the aisle heap praise on a member of the media for the fairness, professionalism and integrity he demonstrated in his career. Hopefully, as the media community reflects on their departed colleague's accomplishments in life, they will do more to emulate him in the future. In so doing, they could actually begin to restore some of their lost credibility. Unfortunately, the drive-bys' stubborn insistence on using the expediency of liberal talking points as gospel will probably continue to rule the day. And that will mean that Russert's mold is truly broken, to the media's and country's detriment.

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Copyright ©2008 Phil Perkins