George Carlin’s last HBO special started with him saying something along the lines of, “F*** Lance Armstrong. And while you’re at it, f*** Tiger Woods, too. I’m tired of television telling me who to admire.”
Well, I’m feeling like, f*** Tim Russert. Don’t get me wrong. I am certainly sorry he died (he was younger than me for God’s sake), and I’m sorry for the friends and family who have lost him. Apparently he was a really good guy. I admired his loyalty to his hometown and I even watched his show regularly.
But please don’t tell me was some kind of hero. This is nothing more than television’s overpowering, self-reverential, PR machine gone into overdrive. Seventeen American soldiers have been killed in Iraq this month, and all of them put together didn’t get as much time as NBC has given Russert’s passing. It’s cheap programming and they can do what they do best -- lay on the bathos with a 2-quart ladle. I predict a summer replacement series on NBC Tuesday nights: “Tim Russert is Still Dead.” They do him no service.
And don’t deify this guy’s professional persona. He was just the most successful color-commentator for the world’s most powerful political league; a league that only allows two teams. His success depended on access to the players for those two teams, so he never asked the really tough questions. His shtick was reading people their quotes from the past and making them reconcile them with their current positions. But everyone knew that before they showed up on Meet The Press and were either ready for it, or became the road-kill they deserved to be in the first place.
There is no one on TV asking tough questions. It isn’t what they do.