I believe we may be witnessing historic television evolution.
With the 24/7, non-stop cheerleading of Tim Russerts' career, I suspect MSNBC has taken the bold, innovative step of doing a live, in-real-time Doc Block.
On one hand, it was "Lock-Up America", with their non-stop, talk-to-anyone-who-passed-by-Tim Russert, barrage of patting Russert, and themselves, on the back.
On the other hand, that Russert would be the subject of a Doc Block is, to some degree, apropos.
The MSNBC Doc Blocks, typically, focus on the sleazy, or the underside of society's belly.
Russert's brand of journalism certainly fits those requirements.
Whether it was "grilling" a candidate for office, or fluffing a sitting Vice President, Russert rarely went beyond the line of a junior high journalism class, dressed up by slick camera angles and pop-up "gotcha" graphics.
If the 5 W's are the bedrock of journalism, Russert, lazily, maybe, paid attention to two, or three.
But, if you've tuned into MSNBC (or NBC) these past few days, the parade of talking heads, present and former colleagues, competitors, you would be lead to believe that Russert not only was the first to talk about politics on television, but that he invented both the political and television universe.
One, falling after another (perhaps, in some case, pushing the platitudes through clenched teeth, for fear of retribution), were only a few decibels below Billy Mays, in hawking Russerts work, his work ethics, the "job he did".
Russert has been so pumped up by his adoring colleagues, I fully expect to see a grinning replica of the former MTP host flying high over this years' Macy Thanksgiving Day parade.
Tbogg, over on Firedoglake, hit the nail on the head, with his observation "I'd hate to think that we're going into this political season and all of his talking head peers are going to be wearing a "TR" patch on their sleeves as if the election is all about them and we should be voting because "Tim would have wanted it that way".
"He was hard working ... He did his homework ... He was prepared ..."
What, no credit for breathing, or tying his shoes in the morning?
The sun didn't rise on Russert's cue?
NBC, long ago, should have renamed the program "Meet The Party Line", "Meet The Gatekeeper", or perhaps, "Meet The Ultimate Insider".
The show could have, just as easily, been taped on a patio down on Martha's Vineyard, tall drinks with little umbrellas stationed on the table, as in its' Washington studio.
Week, after week, the nearly identical onslaught of seemingly cloned media and political elites, the insiders, fellow gatekeepers and corporate media scribes, who sat at the table, pontificating on who was in, who was out, much to the orchestration of the "son of Buffalo".
Much was made in this never-ending tribute (if Russert gets this, what happens on the sad day that Walter Cronkite passes away? To even come close, the entire world will have to shut down) of Russert being at the top.
His narrow guest list and even narrower topics certainly cemented that platitude.
As Barry Crimmins noted today, in his excellent "Overkill" post;
Many of these people referred to Russert as a "journalists' journalist" and as "the most important person in the Washington media," and it's likely they believed what they were saying. If Russert deserved the title of Washington Journalist of the Era, it sure was a nasty thing to point out about someone whose corpse had yet to cool. Because during Russert's reign as NBC News Washington Bureau Chief and Meet the Press host, about the only thing politicians were held accountable for was one blow job. Other than that, the treasury has been privatized, our country has been marched into two violent quagmires, the rich have gotten richer and the poor have gotten stomped, and the Bill of Rights has been shredded and tossed as confetti at a tickertape parade celebrating jingoism.
Russert as the "Everyman"
Boy, did that ever get displayed, by a somber Chris Matthews on Friday evening, beaming in from France.
Keith Olbermann, anchoring the first 100-hours, or so, of the Russertpalooza, asked Matthews, for his reaction, recollections, etc.
And Matthews, I assume, was attempting to praise Russert, ended up, IMHO, as shitting all over him, stating the obvious, known to the many who don't drink the MTP and/or corporate media Kool Aid.
Matthews waxed on about how Russert was the "everyman", how he broke things down so the guy on the street could understand things and then put forth, how he and Russert were speaking, with Matthews asking Russert, alluding to his own skepticism, how Russert could support the Iraq War, and citing Russert's answer as "the nuclear thing", that if "they had a nuclear bomb".
Matthews chose to use that to cement Russert's "everyman" legend, I think.
Other than the two, very recent publications - Scott McClellan's book, and the Senate Intelligence Committee's report - that exposed the lies of the Bush Grindhouse, lies already years-old and known to a significant percentage of the world.
Along with unwittingly defining the how hapless Russert was, Matthews also reaffirmed Cheney's offices' assessment that Russert was a pushover, that he'd eat up whatever they put out like happy soup.
Here's Crimmins, again, on Russert's "Everyman" mirror;
True to his roots, Russert worked hard -- he worked hard for the man who let him sit in the private dining room and taught him which fork to use for the salad. But what was his job beyond fitting in? And did he even know he was doing it? It always seemed to me that his job was to appear to be a tough journalist while never actually scratching the surface of what was really going on. For doing this he got status, celebrity and wealth. Again and again his response was to say "what a country!" But he never probed very deeply into the country that allowed his hometown of Buffalo to oxidize. Speaking of the upstate NY city, Russert was all Chamber of Commerce and professional sports booster but never one to draw attention to the crushing poverty found in our nation's second poorest city. Russert seemed to think enthusiastic boosterism was all Buffalo needed and that's all it ever got from its favorite son.
And Russert, for his status as "Everyman" sure could play the holier-than-thou role when he came across a guest, rather obviously, he didn't like, or otherwise respect.
That was never more evident when Russert interviewed (or, should we say, looked down on, disapprovingly) the faux presidential candidate, Steven Colbert.
In a word, it was embarrassing.
From The Garlic's On Colbert & Russert: "The citizens of Dresden didn't endure as much of a bombing as this";
"And to be fair to Colbert, Little Timmy was as much the culprit, with attempting to adopt the same persona as Colbert in which to interview this faux candidate.(You can watch that disaster Here and Here)
Which is most ironic, being that, when Little Timmy is in his own persona, week-after-week, he, pretty much, is a softball-throwing, vice-presidential-favorite, faux newsman anyway.
The citizens of Dresden didn't endure as much of a bombing as this.
Over-the-top, you say?
Russert droned on with an absolutely, going-nowhere Sesame Street riff, complete with holding up a Ernie doll ...
Can the FCC step in and stop NBC/MSNBC? Are there any violations, decency clauses, something ...
Are we to get the funeral in living color, as well?
A horse-drawn caisson through the streets of Buffalo?
The big cathedral shots, world and business leaders looking somber, the isolated money-shot of a white board and Buffalo Bills cap, sitting lonely, the words 'Russert, Russert, Russert" running down it.
On Friday, Peggy Noonan, the longstanding Reagan Groupie, with enough false sincerity to fill Lake Erie, squeezed out of those upward-tilting nostrils that "this is a loss for the nation".
Some hours later, John Cole, over on Balloon Juice, got it down, perfectly;
MSNBC has been running nothing but a 5 hour (and presumably it will go until 11 pm or beyond) marathon of Russert remembrance. CNN has done their due diligence, and Fox news has spent at least the last half hour talking non-stop about him.Fat Chance.
But let’s get something straight- what I am watching right now on the cable news shows is indicative of the problem- no clearer demonstration of the fact that they consider themselves to be players and the insiders and, well, part of the village, is needed. This is precisely the problem. They have walked the corridors of power so long that they honestly think they are the story. It is creepy and sick and the reason politicians get away with all the crap they get away with these days.
Tim Russert was a newsman. He was not the Pope. This is not the JFK assassination, or Reagan’s death, or the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. A newsman died. We know you miss him, but please shut up and get back to work.
I do have sympathies for Russert's family, as well as empathy, having lost my father at the same age, only, not suddenly (which, as things were, would have been merciful), but in an almost three-year tangle with the insidious ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease.
If Russert were only half the great guy, and tremendous family man, as the biblical flood of tributes carry, then, they were a lucky family.
After this display from NBC/MSNBC, it should be out of their system, and there shouldn't be a need to have any of their further election coverage draped in black bunting, and hauling out the hosannas by the pound (don't bet against it , I suppose, is the safe warning).
We've gone well past the 15-minutes thing already ...
Bonus White Board Riffs, Riffs, Riffs
Oliver Willis: Proportion
Emptywheel: At the Risk of Being Churlish
Brilliant at Breakfast: I have nothing more to add to this
Adam Nagourney: Recalling Russert as Political Operative in New York
Steve Benen: If it’s Sunday…
Riding The Woody Allen Train To Last Night's MSNBC Democrat Debate
Top Ten Cloves: Reasons Tim Russert Didn't Ask Scooter Libby About Joe Wilson and His Wife
Little Russ Gone ...