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CONTEMPT (PART 8)! On CNBC, Russert pandered to Goldberg. So Bernie just pandered right back:


THEY’VE SEEN RIVERS: In a rational world, Bernie Goldberg would be burnt, buttered toast. How much contempt has he shown for your discourse? His first book was full of empirical claims which he hadn’t bothered to research—claims which were easily shown to be false. In his new book, Arrogance, he continues cadging bogus “quotes” from the pathologically dishonest MRC—“quotes” which he uses to slander major journalists. He rails against liberals’ alleged incivility—while endlessly trashing the liberal “gulag.” (In Bias, he compared Dan Rather to a Mafia don, and wrote colorful slanders of CBS execs, describing them as “Dan’s bitches.”) And his basic logic is laughable on its face. The press was hard on Clinton, he notes in passing. (The trashing of Gore is never mentioned.) So how is the press gripped by liberal bias? “Never mind,” the clowning scribe seems to say.

In a rational world, such a man would be toast, buttered and burned by jealous watchdogs. But Goldberg’s a tribune of pseudo-con power—and some scribes seem to be eager to pander. Consider, please, the pandering conduct of NBC’s fawning Tim Russert.

Russert surely understands the problems with Goldberg’s books. But you’d never know it from his recent fawning. On November 15, for example, Goldberg appeared on CNBC’s Russert program. During the hour, Tim never raised a single objection to any part of Goldberg’s work. Instead, he pandered to Bernie’s agenda. For example, consider this surprising presentation, which comes straight from the CNBC transcript (no link available):

RUSSERT: Words are so important. If you say, “campaign finance reform”—


RUSSERT: —you’re suggesting that this is something that is necessary or needed.

GOLDBERG: “Reform.”

RUSSERT: And you’re—you’re a journalist. You should avoid being judgmental on those things. Or “gun nuts.” Or, on the other side, “baby killers.” Strip that out of your vocabulary and strip it out of the discussion.

Yes, that’s what he actually said. According to Russert, if a journalist refers to “campaign finance reform,” he has thereby displayed a (liberal) bias—just as he would display a bias by referring to “gun nuts” or “baby killers.” And since you’re wondering, we’re going to tell you: Yes, Russert has routinely used the term “campaign finance reform” in the past. But the Stepford Host is realigning himself, pandering to emerging conservative power. When Bernie Goldberg comes on his show, he now receives the Full Russert Grovel. The helpful host even seeks to atone for having used common terms in the past.

And Russert is fully rewarded in Arrogance. Indeed, one whole chapter of the book is a full-tilt, reciprocal pander from Bernie. “Watching Tim Russert, you get an idea of what a fair-minded mainstream press might be like,” Goldberg writes. Then he prints the transcript of an interview he conducted with Russert—a cloying session that helps display the downward spiral of America’s mainstream press.

How absurd is this chapter in Arrogance? (It’s called “A Conversation with Tim Russert.”) For most of their interview, the blubbering newsmen applaud themselves for their moral superiority—superiority which is said to derive from their shared working-class background. For example, here’s the first exchange from the chapter. No, we aren’t making this up:

GOLDBERG (page 79): I think a lot of people have seen a fairness in you that they’re not used to seeing on the networks, and I’m wondering how much you think your blue-collar background has to do with it.

RUSSERT: There’s no substitute for it, Bernie, believe me. I’ve worked on garbage trucks. I drove a taxi. I tended bar. I delivered pizzas. I worked with liberals, conservatives, blacks, whites; that’s how you grew up in this interesting world, and people were always simply judged on their quality as a person: Did they tell the truth? Did they honor their commitments? Did they show up for work on time?

There’s no substitute for it! Readers, did you know that only someone from a blue-collar background can show full fairness as a journalist? The notion, of course, is absurd on its face, but Bernie—inspired by Russert’s self-praise—begins to indulge himself too:
GOLDBERG (continuing directly): What I learned from my father, who worked in a factory, while I was growing up in the Bronx, was the same thing: You show up for work on time, and if you tell someone you’re going to do something you do it. Those are old-fashioned values.

RUSSERT: My dad said that all the time: People are people; they’ll treat you the way you treat them—and I’ve adhered to that the best I possibly can.

What makes Russert and Goldberg so special? As kids, they were told they should show up on time! Surely, nothing could be more fatuous—but the foolishness goes on and on. How essential is that blue-collar background? Three pages later, the millionaire proles start to blubber about it once again:
GOLDBERG (page 82): This willingness to be open goes back to those early days in Buffalo, doesn’t it?

RUSSERT: As I say, the people I grew up around had a wonderful way of encouraging, insisting that you understand people, that you give them their say and not be dismissive of any point of view. No one has a monopoly on what is right and wrong.

Good lord! If your dad made a dollar more than Tim’s, you’d better get out of the business! But this ludicrous bath of blue-collar self-praise defines this chapter from start to finish. Why is Russert so tough about deficits, for example? “[Y]ou know where that comes from?” he asks. “It comes from Mom and Dad’s kitchen table. We never floated loans.” Let’s face it: It’s silly to let anyone else on the air, these working-class blokes are so decent.

Of course, people as fine as Tim and Bernie will always be targets of others. And sure enough, the self-impressed scribes are soon boo-hooing about all the prejudice they’ve endured. Make no mistake—these two have seen rivers. More specifically, Russert says he’s been abused because of his alma mater:

GOLDBERG (page 79): I’ve worked with network people who literally referred to the audience as white trash. They were talking about people who didn’t go to school in the Northeast and sometimes literally did live in trailers.

RUSSERT: They’ve said it about me: “Russert attended middling schools. Russert admits to being a practicing Catholic.”

GOLDBERG: Admits???

RUSSERT [laughing]: Right!!! “If he didn’t go to Harvard, if he’s not Ivy League, how can he be smart?”

Who has made such astounding remarks? Who has said that Russert is dumb white trash because he failed to attend the right schools? Because he’s Catholic? Don’t worry—Tim and Bernie have no plans to tell you. But they do keep wallowing in the alleged comments—comments which make all their colleagues sound like bigots. And needless to say, Russert believes that his humble school background also helps make him so special:
RUSSERT (page 79): I also believe that going to the schools I did—St. Bonaventure school, Canisius High School, John Carroll University—these are not fashionable, elitist schools. These are schools where you learn to read and write and learn right from wrong.
And they seem to be schools where you learn self-pity. But time out! Do the liberal nets pander to Harvard and Yale? Let’s run through some well-known names and recall the fancy schools they attended:
Tom Brokaw: University of South Dakota
Dan Rather: Sam Houston State College
Peter Jennings: High school drop-out
Jim Lehrer: Victoria Community College; University of Missouri
Bob Schieffer: Texas Christian University
Tim Russert: John Carroll University
Brian Williams: Brookdale Community College; Catholic University; George Washington University. No college degree.
Chris Matthews: Holy Cross College
Why couldn’t Bernie make his way to the top? He was too poor to attend Brookdale College! In fact, almost no one who hosts an evening or Sunday news show attended an “elite northeast college.” (George Stephanopoulos went to Columbia; among hoity northeastern schools, that’s it.) Despite this, Tim and Bernie blubber and wail about the abuse they’ve absorbed. By the way, the pundit corps is filled with “practicing Catholics.” Despite this, Russert cries, weeps and blubbers.

It’s bad enough when pols act this way, but few politicians could match this pair for cloying reports about how tough they’ve had it. And Russert’s so swollen with self-admiration that he fails to understand his own conduct. At one point, we emitted low, mordant chuckles when he described (yet again) his great fairness:

RUSSERT (page 80): Bernie, there’s not a moment when I’m sitting there on Meet the Press when I’m not thinking about my dad. He’s in my head; he’s in my heart. That’s why I ask straight questions: What are you going to do about that issue? How about this one? Well, that’s not what you said that this!

It’s the way our dad engaged us—always give the other guy the benefit of the doubt but hear him out. Hear him out. And don’t dismiss him, and don’t brand him as anything. It’s not right.

“Always hear the other guy out!” It’s what he learned at that kitchen table. Of course, here at THE HOWLER, we recalled his real conduct in actual interviews (see below), and we chuckled to think that our mainstream press is in the hands of such self-impressed men.

Yep—in a rational world, Bernie G would be toast. His books have shown his contempt for your discourse. But Goldberg’s a tribune of pseudo-con power, and at least one host seems eager to please him. On CNBC, Russert pandered to Goldberg. He’s rewarded in Bernie’s new book.

HEARING THEM OUT: “Always hear the other guy out,” Russert said—and here at THE HOWLER, we emitted low chuckles. We recalled how he heard the other guy out when Howard Dean Met the Press back in June:

DEAN: The problem for Social Security is that it is actually in fine shape until, I don’t know, 2040 or something like that—

RUSSERT: No, no, no, no, no.

Later, Tim “heard him out” on Iraq:
DEAN: For me to have to know right now, participating in the Democratic Party primary, how many troops are actively on duty in the United States military…it’s silly. That’s like asking me who the ambassador to Rwanda is.

RUSSERT: Oh, no, no, no.

Meanwhile, when he hosted Gore in July 2000, other scribes failed to see that Russert was trying to “hear Gore out.” Instead, Russert was praised, all over the press, for having behaved “like a prosecutor” (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/25/00). Russert is eager to praise his own fairness. But admiring colleagues saw his work differently. Their descriptions were right on the mark.

HEARING KEYES OUT: In January 2000, Russert moderated a Republican White House debate in New Hampshire. During the forum, Russert was so determined to state his own views that Allan Keyes finally told him to shut the heck up. Meanwhile, he gave so much time to Bush and McCain—and so little to other hopefuls, especially Forbes—that the sponsor of the forum apologized the next day. We cheered when Keyes finally brought down the hammer. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/17/00.

PANDERAMA: Readers, you have to read Arrogance to see how thoroughly Russert panders to Goldberg. Surely, the NBC honcho breaks all known records for reciting a host’s preferred spin-points. We studied under the nuns too (Sundays only), so we know all about catechismal recitation. But Russert recites Bernie’s scripts to a T. Our advice: Go to a Border’s, find a soft chair, and read through the whole silly chapter.

TOMORROW: Goldberg’s praise for Tammy Bruce is too silly to ignore. Meanwhile, be sure to see Shattered Glass. Our “Glass Houses” reports start this week.