Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Bye, Tim

Believe it or not, two or three weeks ago, I began writing this blog and typed the words, “Is there anybody better at calling b.s. on people than Tim Russert?” But being as we here at the Stiletto Gang are a bipartisan, non-political bunch who don’t talk about politics, religion, or sex (at least not in polite company), I shelved the post, thinking that I would come back to it at some point when I felt a little more impartial on the subject.

It was meant to be an homage to my Sunday-morning boyfriend, Tim Russert, but I figured I had time to work on it so as to cast the proper light on one of my favorite pastimes, watching “Meet the Press.” But Scott McLelland was the guest the morning that I began writing the post and let’s just say that I don’t feel impartial about him in any way, shape, or form.

And then the unthinkable happened. My hero, Tim Russert, died suddenly last Friday of an apparent heart attack. And all I kept thinking was “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.” Except I did know what I had. What I had was a Jesuit-educated, Irish-Catholic political junkie who became the go-to guy for all things fair and impartial. He was our mouthpiece, the guy to call b.s. on all of those politicians, pundits, and spin doctors. He was one of us, but way, way smarter. He was a son, father, brother, husband, uncle. He was an Everyman from Buffalo, New York. He was a giant of journalism, keeper of the proving ground for candidates and elected officials alike. I have watched many Russert interviews over the years, but the one that got me started on this post a few weeks back is one that will stay with me for a long time. It was a butt-kicking of the highest caliber, but done in Russert’s always polite, always respectful way. It was the interview he did with weasel numero uno Scott McClelland.

And so begins the post I started on June 2, one day after McClelland appeared on “Meet the Press”: Is there anybody better at calling b.s. on people than Tim Russert?

I had this past Sunday morning free and as luck would have it, “Meet the Press” was beginning just after I had finished preparing a lovely sandwich of leftover chicken sausage on a roll and poured myself a big glass of Diet 7UP. I settled in to find out who Russert was hosting this day and it turned out to be turncoat extraordinaire, Scott McLelland. For those of you who don’t pay close attention to the best-seller list, politics, or lying mclyingpants in general, Scott McLelland is a former Bush White House Press Secretary, and by his own admission, someone who repeatedly lied to the American people during his employment. A sample? The administration, namely, the President, lied about the circumstances (e.g. WMD’s, link to Al-Qaeda) leading up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. McLelland, good boy that he was, stood at the White House press secretary podium and laid out the case for going to war, invoking the very lies he had now laid out in his new book. What else? He/they lied about leaking of Valerie Plame’s identity to the media. He/they screwed up the response to Hurricane Katrina. And the list goes on.

But I don’t want to write about politics or how I feel about these lies and screw ups. What I want to write about how Tim Russert, a.k.a MY NEW HERO, questioned little Scott McLelland, a man who is now profiting from the lies he presented and perpetrated after being on staff for seven years serving the President. My moral outrage wasn’t enough, nor was the sausage sandwich I was eating. What I needed McLelland to endure –and exactly what he got—was a televised tongue-lashing from Russert, the beauty of which can be seen here: What you’ll see is McLelland in all of his glorious, double-talking duplicity. And Russert with all of his smart guy, “you sure you want to play it that way?” questioning style.

I was initially entranced with the whole Q and A but became even more mesmerized by the astounding amount of research that went into Russert’s line of questioning. For every equivocation, there was footage of McLelland at a White House podium, contradicting what he just said. For every statement of McLelland fact (what we normal folks call “lies”), there was a shot of him embracing the President, or Karl Rove, or Scooter Libby, people who he now claims lie without losing a moment’s sleep, who have put the lives of American servicemen and women in serious jeopardy . For every time I said, between mouths of sausage sandwich, “ask him this!”, Russert did. And not in a nanny-nanny-poo-poo, gotcha kind of way, but in a matter-of-fact, “let’s see you get yourself out of this one” way.

But when all is said and done, Scott McLelland sold a ton of books that day, but hopefully, after a stint on “Meet the Press” feels just a wee bit guilty about it. Because he’s profiting from the lies and Russert, in his polite, yet firm way, let him know that.

We need more Russerts and fewer McLellands. We need guys—and by “guys” I mean men and women—who write books revering their fathers, books that talk about the struggles of the middle class. We need less lying, sniveling, turncoat rats and more people committed to truth and justice. I don’t care who we get it from—Democrats or Republicans. All I hope is that someone thinks about a guy like Russert, a stand-up guy at that, and thinks, “that’s who I want to be like.”

Bye, Tim.



  1. Bravo!

    I've always been so impressed by the amount of research Russert did for each interview. For future historians of this era, Russert's files will be incredibly helpful.

    Well Done!

  2. Russert was a politician's worst nightmare and a hero to the general public. Thanks, Maggie, for sharing your thoughts about Tim and the way he drilled his guests to get at the truth.