Ironically Tim Russert died on the 21st anniversary of my father's death. As I wrote in my book, Road To Air America, like Russert, my father was my mentor and guiding force. He witnessed American history since he came to the U.S. in 1920 from a small town in Poland called Nova Miasto. I named our radio network Nova M Radio in honor of his birth place.
I was lucky enough to have my father to make me aware of the things that were so invisible to others in my peer group. He lived through these times, and contemporaneously followed the events of 20th century world history, so as to influence me and the rest of the family to always scrutinize the facts and not be fooled into belief systems that advance the cause of those who have nefarious goals. That is why my father rightfully had a very high standard for political leaders. In his mind, those leaders who engaged in deceitful and cruel policies against humanity were to be judged harshly no matter what their other achievements were. It is the right standard. It is the standard that we apply to all citizens no matter how noble their other achievements may be.
My father would have been very critical of Russert and the media reporters who enabled Bush to engage in war mongering policies without proper scrutiny from reporters and the media. As Scott McClellan wrote in his recent book, he blames the rush to war in Iraq on a lack of proper skepticism by the media. And Tim Russert, was arguably the most powerful of those members of the press that did not do his job. In fact, I was very critical of Russert. He may have been a tough questioner but he simply would not speak truth to power and was more interested in politics as a game rather than a process leading to informed consent by the electorate.
Last week I viewed the BBC documentary, The Power of Nightmares, which gives an account of American foreign policy since 1950 focusing on the myths of fear mongering. The documentary specifically criticizes the neo-cons constant need for enemies from the USSR to Sadam Hussein to the myth of Al Qaeda as a sophisticated centralized network with its headquarters in the caves of Tora Bora. In that documentary, a 2002 episode of Meet The Press has Russert interviewing Cheney about the sophisticated Al Qaeda nerve center in the mountains of Tora Bora.
Russert showed a schematic of the purported headquarters of Al Qaeda prepared by the VP with the most sophisticated systems and offices purported to be built into the caves including highly advanced communication systems. Somehow this elaborate facility was built unnoticed by anyone in an unlikey place where access would have been impossible to even try to build such a facility. Furthermore, building that kind of sophisticated facility near the so-called training camps was ludicrous. If there were such a centralized Al Qaeda headquarters, it surely would not have been in the caves of Afghanistan next to training camps that we were constantly monitoring. Yet Russert did not ask a single question about what Cheney was presenting to the public even though it was patently false. Following that, Russert lead the media in the unabated rush to war in Iraq.
Russert's election coverage was more about electoral strategy than issues. His 2000 "Florida, Florida, Florida" analysis was his most famous election analysis. He, like many of his colleagues asked very few questions about real issues and the differences between the positions of the candidates. His questioning focused mostly on trivial tabloid issues rather than the efficacy of the positions of the candidates. Republicans clearly had difficulty with the positions that they were presenting to the electorate. Russert would not talk about the unjust social and economic positions of the Republican candidates and would never question their positions no matter how absurd they were. Instead, he focused on trivial questions and rumors as if he were a Republican operative. His only discussion of issues in 2008 was that there were real differences that the voters would have to make a choice about.
After the primaries ended in 2008, I told my brothers that our father would have been happy if Russert would retire so we could get some real discussion of issues. My dad was not very tolerant of the lack of courage of many in the American media. He did not live to see Russert as the most powerful of those members of the press. And he was often so harsh in his criticism of politicians and media that he would often wish them ill. Sometimes his wishes remarkably came to pass. I mourn the tragic death of Russert but I sometimes wonder about what my father's immortal soul is up to 21 years after his death.