August 6, 2008

City of Buffalo Dedicates a Street "Tim Russert Way"

As we reported back on June 13, WNY took a hard hit with Tim Russert's passing. Tim Russert was a quality reporter that appealed to those on both sides of the aisle. He reported the news as best he could and without alterior motives. Today the City of Buffalo dedicated a street "Tim Russert Way" in his honor, for being what one man described "Buffalo's greatest ambassador".


Anonymous said...

Wow...he was good and all, but i think the situation has been hyped up a bit. He was a reporter that happened to be from Buffalo. He gave back a bit, as most successful people do, but a street? Smells political

Pete M said...

He left Buffalo literally and figuratively years ago. The whole thing has been way overplayed by the media. But, in the long run, if someone wants to name a street after a guy who hosted a show that 99% of Buffalo never watched, go for it.

Anonymous said...

How about changing street names to honor people who devote their lives to philanthropic and charitable causes? So the guy mentioned the Buffalo Bills once in awhile. Woopdeedoo.

Anonymous said...

“Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.”-William J. Rapaport

It’s difficult to recall an important televised moment in which Tim Russert’s owlish face was not agleam with self-satisfaction. As though his excrescent snout were industriously secreting nitrous oxide. I used to wonder what, about his innately unpleasant work, he found so amusing.

The bonds with his father, Tim, Sr. and son, Luke, were obviously adamantine. Against all probability, he united the classes—of Washington’s reportorial peerage, and the reliably media-averse working white folk through whose lives he jovially trundled—in unanimous affection. CNN’s Anderson Cooper found time while in Africa, where nothing newsworthy ever happens, to call Russert “a remarkable journalist and an extraordinarily decent human being.” While the latter constituency, with whom the NBC News Washington bureau chief literally oversold his kinship in two bestselling books, was unwavering in its devotion. That’s remarkable for a man who was, according to media critic Bob Somerby, “made a multimillionaire by…conservative Republican defense contractor…Jack Welch.” Somerby argues on his website, The Daily Howler, that Welch, onetime CEO of NBC parent General Electric “hand-picked” Russert for “Meet the Press.” But Russert’s fabulous wealth and his summer castle on the exclusive island of Nantucket were inconsequential to these table salts of the earth.

At the Superfund site in South Buffalo that is Tim Russert Park, the jogging track is—perhaps fittingly, given his premature death at age 58 from coronary artery disease—abbreviated and misshapen like a pork chop. Pedestrians on the main street leading there are more “heterogeneous” than when young Russert trudged the sidewalks. But they embody unmistakable blue-collar values, like open contempt for motorized traffic.

Memories among the earlier generation here who met him are bland, but sincere: he was a “real nice guy” and “down to earth.” Around the corner at The Blackthorn, an Irish pub and men’s club where his father, “Big Russ”—titular hero of one of Russert’s treacly potboilers—is a member, recollections are slightly more flavored. Visiting the bar one night, he sat with the regulars, drank Heineken and “talked Buffalo.” (The Heineken seems slightly indiscreet for an inveterate brand-conscious Irish Catholic like Russert.) Co-owner Pat Lalley echoed the sentiment of every cable television obituarist when he said the newsman was “like an acquaintance.”

At some point, however, this vibrato adulation becomes discreditable. After all, what grizzled muckraker has ever boasted a wide circle of cordial acquaintance? Let alone among powerful people?

Yet Russert’s friend, Rush Limbaugh, called him “the closest thing there was at any of the networks to an objective journalist.” This is the Rush Limbaugh who claimed Hillary Clinton abetted the “murder” of Vince Foster; that no scientific basis existed in 1994 for concluding nicotine is addictive; and that Michael J. Fox “exaggerat[ed]” his Parkinson’s tremors for political purposes. In other words, don’t expect Seymour Hersh to be mourned so liberally.

You may pinch your sniffer and declare nasally that this reeks of selective quotation. Well, what to make of Russert’s inquisitorial flourishes as Democratic debate moderator? It was he who decided that Barack Obama must assuage the fears of Jewish Americans (and doubtless other armchair Confederates) by exorcising the anti-Semitic specter of Louis Farrakhan. A man whose endorsement Obama did not court, and whose company he did not keep; but who is swarthy, Chicagoan and, well, you get the idea. Meanwhile, John McCain’s public dalliance with John Hagee went unremarked for months, because Russert—lauded as one of Washington’s most resourceful men—couldn’t locate footage of the pastor’s hate screeds.

The encore to this sordid episode came many weeks later when Obama secured the party’s nomination. Russert marked the momentous occasion with the chauvinistic emission that he would “love to teach American history at an inner-city American school tomorrow morning.” Gushing, he asked his co-hosts, “How great would that be?” Comes the question: For whom, precisely? Imagine this man before such a classroom. Imparting the very contemporary lesson that, regardless what heights they might achieve, even the scions of Civil Rights must bear the weight of some “strange fruit.”

This curious favoritism is stranger still for a man whose career began in Democratic politics. If it’s possible to suggest such a thing in America, then perhaps his master passions were too working-class. He was a former altar boy who, according to Newsweek’s John Meacham, still regularly attended mass—long after his childhood schoolmates had lapsed. Like the Buffalonians so surprised that this successful fellow would continue to vouchsafe them essential courtesies, he retained his own tendency to be overawed. He felt blessed to meet two popes. His critics and friends portray him as a man in thrall—whether to Welch, to heads of state or something higher still. And the gauzy, ceremonial armor he donned as “Meet the Press” weekend warrior merely accentuated the flaws of his professional reverence.

In 2004, as Somerby noted, he allowed President Bush to stutter his way through a retrospective interview about prewar planning without venturing a single pointed follow-up. Later that year, as the election drew closer and the prospective veeps sparred, he inexplicably let stand Dick Cheney’s lie that the vice president had never before met John Edwards—though the NBC host knew it was false. Is it any wonder White House aide Catherine Martin, testifying at Scooter Libby’s trial, called “Meet the Press” the administration’s “best format” for propagating its messages?

NBC morticians misspent much of their nonstop tele-vigil futilely making over Russert’s derelict treatment of the Iraq War run-up. Chris Matthews contorted his glistening, dribble glass mouth and whimpered that Cheney’s threat of mushroom clouds had stifled his boss. “The guys who wanted the war used that one thing to sell the patriot in Tim…” he said. Defending “Tim’s” dutiful ingenuousness, he referred to him as “everyman…Mr. or Miss America—Mrs. America.” The country can sigh in collective relief that we at least were spared the swimsuit competition.

The normally sensible Lawrence O’Donnell portrayed Russert as “patient enough to let the history roll out and let us find out…the ultimate truth…” How magnanimous! Only a believer in omnipotent hands, perpetually sweeping brown-skinned detritus under the vast rug of time, could be so unvigilant. For what was the man compensated multimillions? Of course, Tim could afford to forbear, because his beloved fortunate son would never be imperiled overseas. Still, O’Donnell insisted Russert was dogged. “The answers,” he argued, “were oversimplified.” Remember that Russert’s greatest contribution to media was reducing the 2000 presidential election on a whiteboard to the words “Florida! Florida! Florida!” He was an insatiable gourmet of simplicity.

Russert’s answer to the charge of negligence, leveled at him by Bill Moyers in the film “Buying the War,” deserves its own well-lit display adjacent that whiteboard now in the Smithsonian. Asked why he didn’t verify the Bush administration’s intelligence on Iraq with other government officials, he replied, “I wish my phone had rung.” There, in his words, is the summation of his fabled reportage. Picture the Tim Russert Monument: the stone giant drowsing in his oversized host’s chair, his telephone cradled for eternity.

His faith in higher powers might explain his complacency, but it doesn’t make it any easier to stomach. In his penultimate broadcast as “Meet the Press” moderator, he bluntly called erstwhile White House press secretary Scott McClellan “part of the propaganda machine that sold the war.” He then extorted from his guest a promise that McClellan would donate a portion of his book sales to war victims. I thought Catholics had an overactive sense of sin.

The McClellan appearance was memorable for another reason. Russert patented the very simple act of poring over a public figure’s entire career worth of statements and asking them to explain the inevitable discrepancies—discrepancies that, alone, told no story. This tiresome technique of interrogation attained the stature of the Gordian knot in Beltway mythology. And woe betide any aspiring pol who came unprepared. But McClellan’s unruffled admissions that he’d simply been lying for years visibly perplexed Russert. As though the host, an unrivaled insider, had never really expected any guest to confess sheer opportunism. He’d only ever succeeded in teasing out more evasions. But a dissembling little knave undid the whole business.

Driving through Buffalo on Friday the 13th, hours after the announcement that Tim Russert—respected journalist and adored family man—had collapsed at NBC’s studios, I pulled over to the side of the road. Some teenagers were skateboarding in a small square. I got out and asked a few of them if they knew that one of the city’s most famous sons had passed. Only one answered.

“[He was] a guy who did the news and just died,” said Sean, 15. That was the clearest thing I heard in a weekend drowned out by rote eulogizing. All for a gormless leviathan whose clumsy bulk briefly rippled the manmade shallows of American political media.

On that Buffalo sidewalk, on the eve of Father’s Day, I thought of the Russert clan and hoped for their consolation. I thought, too, of the orphaned children and bereft parents of Iraq, and the fatherless sons and daughters of dead American soldiers. And I took heart later, on a damp, drear night, as thunderclaps roared and pitchforks of electricity scored the darkness. Buffalo had other sons, like Sean, of whom it could be proud. Go Bills.

Anonymous said...

Tim Russert was like a father to me: He was Irish, raised in South Buffalo, I never saw him and I got no money when he died. Most people from Buffalo thought of Tim that way. He was a shining red-faced beacon for us all. He was an example of what a blue collar guy from Buffalo can accomplish—and without smoking crack or playing funk bass! He never once used his lowly upbringing as an excuse. He lived large, and knowing from the geographic shit-hole he was born into, he must have dreamt even larger.

What people outside of Buffalo don’t understand is how hard it is to make something of yourself when you are from Buffalo. It’s nearly impossible. For example, over 80% of Buffalonians die before they are ever conceived! But that’s not the real tragedy. The real tragedy is that of the 20% who make it, almost all of them will succumb to suicidal wings. It’s a cry for help. It’s the poverty that makes us that way.

The typical Buffalo home is made of wood and the lawns of dirt. Now, I don’t mean that as a metaphor. I mean actual dirt. Sure, there’s grass, but under that grass is dirt. And there’s nothing poorer than dirt. Is it any wonder that the MSM bigwigs are so amazed that a blue collar guy from Buffalo was able to overcome such obstacles?

Well, I gotta get back to the grind. This ditch’s gotta be a hundred yards long by noon, or I’ll get fired and then fed to a pack of wolverines—which is a Buffalo tradition.

It’s no wonder Tim Russert worked so hard!

Anonymous said...

This was also in the Buffalo news today "Forbes magazine lists Buffalo among top 10 'Fastest-Dying Cities'" , these are the facts, just ask your democratic pal Dan, because even his kid Dannelle is leaving the state for a better job. So please no boo-hoo stop being so negative or no one will move here bullshit ok? We live in the shithole of the country face the facts.

not_over_it said...

I'm sure he was a nice person, and I know that he did nice things for our area, and I am sorry about Tim Russert's early passing, but he was not a hero.

He was not.

Jounalist? Uh, OK. Whatever.

Hero? No. Nice guy, but not a hero.

Anonymous said...

Francine DelMonte, 46, of Niagara Falls, was charged with loitering at 8:18 a.m. Thursday. DelMonte was walking on 19th Street Thursday morning and offered a motorist oral sex in exchange for money, according to the driver, who alerted police. DelMonte also was taken in on a warrant for a previous loitering charge.