Russert: Iraq War Salesman

More on Tim Russert, the late media hack who was described as a hard-hitting man of integrity by his TV brethren (and even some of my liberal friends) but who helped the Bush administration sell the Iraq war, can be found in a series of Daily Howler columns. Here is an excerpt. The non-italicized text is Howler editor Bob Somerby:

While everyone yodeled the flattering claims [in the days immediately following Russert's death], a few people poked at the truth.

One such person was poor hapless [Chris] Matthews, uncontrollably stating his view to Keith Olbermann last Friday night. It was perhaps the wrong time for such ruminations. But mere hours after Russert’s death, Matthews told Olbermann what he’d been thinking about his colleague and friend. We think his comments take us close to the actual truth about Russert’s real work. What Matthews says here is very important—and it’s profoundly unflattering to Russert. You still can’t find it on Nexis:

MATTHEWS (6/13/08): One other thing, and it may be tricky to say this and I’ll say it. When we went to war with Iraq, he and I had a little discussion about that and this is where he is every man. This is where Tim is Mr. or Miss America or Mrs. America. He is us as a country. I said, Why—how can you believe this war is justified? And he said, “The nuclear thing. If they have a bomb that they can use, we’ve got to deal with. We can’t walk away from that.”

And that to me was the essence of what was wrong with the whole case of the war. They knew the argument that would sell with Mr. America, with the regular guy, with the true American patriot. They used the argument that would sell, that would get us into that war. Tim was right on the nail. He was us, the American people. And that to me is something that has been coming in my head the last couple of hours when Tim and I had that conversation, that that was the thing that sold America. And the guys who wanted the war used that one thing that would sell the patriot in Tim Russert. [...]

It’s for the good of us all and Tim never forgot the purpose of truth in getting at it was the good of us all. We needed the truth. And boy, did I look up to him.

“We needed the truth,” Matthews said, back-pedaling furiously in praise of Russert. Moments earlier, he’d said that Russert had been a dupe—a stooge; a mark—for those who toyed with the truth in the run-up to war in Iraq. [...]

Somerby also quotes a Bill Moyers interview where Russert says he wishes someone had called him with information suggesting the nuclear claims were bogus. In response to this embarrassing admission of journalistic incompetence, Moyers noted that CBS’s Bob Simon had "just picked up the phone" and was able to air a report questioning the claims.