We'll leave aside for now the high hilarity of George Stephanopoulos inviting Tom DeLay on to talk about ethics, and letting him blather on about corrupt Democrats virtually without challenge (I can think of 20 things a good journalist would've started hammering DeLay about on the spot, but obviously DeLay took the gig because he had no fear of anything like that happening). Howard Dean appropriately scoffed at the absurdity of the situation, but then came Tim Russert recounting practically the same narrative DeLay had recited. So did Maura Liasson. The thing that seems to have them all wilting on the fainting couch and grabbing for the laudanum is the prospect of Democrats gaining a majority and starting impeachment proceedings, or even launching a few badly needed investigations. The very thought leaves Chris Matthews lurching in primitive fear.
I have to ask -- is this matter really polling that well? Are Americans trembling at the notion that the GOP might have its dirty laundry tossed by the Democrats? It all sounds a bit Tell-Tale Heart to me. Now I understand why DeLay doesn't want it to happen, but why are Matthews and Russert quaking at the very thought of Congressional oversight?
I'd like to harken back to what is probably my favorite story I've ever written on. It has to do with a footnote in a Patrick Fitzgerald filing when Russert was fighting tooth and nail to keep from having to answer the Special Counsel's questions. Russert was claiming that the general waiver signed by Scooter Libby was "coerced," and that if he testified his "sources" would never trust him again. To which Fitzgerald said:
It is also relevant to note that Russert has treated an asserted waiver of the reporter's privilege quite differently when convenient. When Richard Clarke published his book Against All Enemies and testified before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the September 11 Commission), Clarke became subject to intense media scrutiny. On March 24, 2004, the White House disclosed Clarke's identity as the "senior administration official" who gave a "background" briefing in August 2002. When Clarke appeared as a guest on Meet the Press on March 28, 2004, Russert noted the White House had been aggressive in attacking Clarke's credibility and had identified Clarke as the source for the background briefing -- without indicating any concern about the "voluntariness" of the waiver, in which Clarke apparently played no role. (Copy of the March 28, 2004, Meet the Press transcript, Exhibit 1). Russert did not hesitate to broadcast out of any concern that such disclosure might chill future background sources.
I just love that tight, brutal paragraph. I have to resurrect it every now and again if only for my own amusement.
Russert screwed over Richard Clarke. Hard. Fitzgerald knew it and he called him on it. Russert was willing to sell out the high journalistic principles he claims to cherish so stalwartly for the party and the access he values even more. He fought relentlessly to keep from helping Fitzgerald (and the public) nail Scooter Libby. How is he going to feel when people like John Conyers (whom he smeared this morning -- and Conyers fires back here) start looking into the all-too-cozy relationship that the press had with the White House in leading the country down the garden path to war?
In his new book Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush, Eric Boehlert gives us yet another portrait of the commitment to journalistic excellence embraced by Monsegneur Tim, this time in the wake of the 2004 Edwards/Cheney debate:
Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert appeared on MSNBC and, like everyone else, was chattering about Cheney's put-down of Edwards, which the pundit thought was effective. But Russert, perhaps better than anyone, immediately recognized Cheney's I've-never-met-you charge wasn't true because Russert was there when Cheney and Edwards were guests on Meet the Press on April 8, 2001. Appearing the next day on the Today show, Russert, discussing the debate's pivotal moment, said, "I thought that John Edwards would call him on it right at that very moment," suggesting Russert knew, "at that very moment" that Cheney's claim was false. And yet following the debate, as Russert analyzed the event on live television he remained mum about the uncomfortable fact that the two vice presidential candidates had met on his program. Instead of deflating Cheney's attack with some relevant facts, Russert, who enjoyeed a series of exclusive Sunday morning talk show interviews with Cheney since 2001, simply sat on the facts.
The next time Russert and Matthews start piddling in their sneakers at the thought of Democrats with subpoena power, I think it's time to remember that it's not even their beloved Republicans they fear for, and given their ecstatic participation in the Cliniton hunt it sure isn't the public interest. Could it be their own large, pale posteriors that fear exposure? Is that why they're working overtime to perpetuate GOP narratives and attempting to spread their own personal fears into the hearts of their viewers at the specter of Congressional oversight?
You know, I think it just might be.
Jane Hamsher blogs at firedoglake.com
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