The delirium in the press at Tim Russert’s passing has been strange. As a broadcaster he was not much better than average, which is saying very little. He could be a sharp questioner, but not when it really counted and when courage was required. He was tough with George Bush in a February 2004 interview. He taxed him with faking the reasons to attack Iraq. But in the years before the 2003 attack, I used to hear Russert being merciless to those questioning whether Saddam Hussein had the nukes and bioweapons alleged by the Bush Administration and its co-conspirators in the press, prominent among them Russert himself.
Russert and his staff ignored efforts by watchdogs like Sam Husseini and others to get him to stop telling lies to the effect that it was Saddam who threw out the UNSCOM weapons inspectors, whereas it was Richard Butler, the head of UNSCOM, who pulled out the inspectors, apparently at the instigation of the United States. As Husseini correctly writes, "This lie, echoed through much of the political-media system around the time Russert told it, helped set the stage for the invasion after 9/11."
If Russert had rocked the boat in any serious way he’d have had more enemies. The right-wingers didn’t care for Walter Cronkite, but they had no problem with Russert. Rush Limbaugh nuzzled him respectfully on the air, and so did Don Imus. Russert was always there with his watering can to fertilize myths useful to the system. On Russert’s memorial show Ronald Reagan glowed in memory, up there with FDR as the twentieth century’s best-loved and most popular American President. Not true at all, as Russert–trained to read polls by years of working for Mario Cuomo and Daniel Patrick Moynihan–could have found out in five minutes if he’d wanted to. Reagan had a scrawny 52 percent average approval rating for his presidency, worse than JFK, Eisenhower, Roosevelt and Johnson. His supposed "likability" was also hugely exaggerated. But the invention of RR as the toast of the ordinary folk was necessary to validate the disgusting pigout for the very rich he inaugurated, which continues to this day.
Similarly necessary has been the notion that if it means winning the "war on terror," ordinary Americans are OK with the President (along with the US Congress) making a bonfire of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Russert helped spread that lie too, even though polls dissected in numerous accounts by press watchdogs like FAIR have shown that a narrow majority of Americans hold contrary views on the matter.