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Sunday, May 23, 2004

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It's Tim Russert Month!



L'EMINENCE GRISE. We got a telegram from the Russert Media Empire (RME) by special courier last night. It informed us that today was our turn to promote Tim Russert and his new book. We should have been expecting it because he's been everywhere else for the past few weeks. He was on the Tonight Show. He was on the O'Reilly Factor. He was on Late Night with David Letterman. He was on Hannity and Colmes. He's featured on the Drudge Report every damn day -- interviewing Rumsfeld, lecturing Colin Powell's aide, arranging to receive a highly publicized subpoena in the Valerie Plame investigation. He was on Larry King, The View, the Today Show, Dateline, and Hardball, or if he wasn't we would be shocked to hear it. He was even on Jeopardy, where he won a grand total -- after Final Jeopardy, of course -- of $0 for not knowing how many senators there were in 1958. (We tried to help by shouting the right answer at the screen but Tim didn't hear us, and neither did Christie Whitman or Tavis Smiley.) He's probably coming to a mall or country fair in your neighborhood any day. So now that he's exhausted every other venue, we have to do our part.

If we'd a little more advance notice we could have been better prepared. As it is, we haven't read the book and don't own a copy. It's called Big Russ & Me and it's about him and his father. Or so we've heard. A few hundred times. But our disconcerting habit of dropping off to sleep when Tim starts talking has deprived us of the details. Fortunately, though, the Internet is brimming with Russert entries (76,000+), so we found a review in the New Yorker. After two of three longish opening paragraphs about himself and his father, reviewer Nicholas Lemann finally brought up the subject of Russert and his book. He said:

Big Russ & Me is not so much a self-examination, or even a dad-examination—very little in it could be honestly described as interesting—as it is a highly effective extension of the Russert brand. The book is written with Bill Novak, the celebrity ghostwriter, who is credited as “full partner.” The brand wouldn’t be so successful if it weren’t genuinely appealing, and Russert in these pages is characteristically forthright, unpretentious, respectful, and values-laden. And Big Russ himself functions less as a vivid character in a book than as an enhancer of his son’s mystique. Big Russ, it turns out, is a name conferred by Tim Russert on his father, not something that his friends called him. The senior Russert’s real name is—Tim Russert. At least nominally, he’s an invention of his son. Big Russ fades out somewhat as the book goes on, but every appearance, while presented as being illustrative of his good qualities (no filial ambivalence here!), literarily performs the function of making Tim look good, by reassuring us that he’s permanently connected to a father lode of realness.

One gets the feeling Lemann would have been happier if Russert had written a book called Nick & His Dad, but that doesn't seem reasonable to us, much like the rest of the tripe in the New Yorker these days. Our advice -- strongly supported, we might add, by the endorsements we received from the RME -- would be to disregard Mr. Lemann's somewhat arch analysis and buy the damn book. Tim's going to be on every talk show, game show, and news magazine until you do.

We'd like to offer some new information about Tim himself, just to prove what great researchers we are. We hunted around quite a bit and discovered that Tim was born on May 7, so this really is his month. Journalists seem to admire him, but not all of the audience does. Some of his critics know that he's a shill for the Republicans. We found this out from a college senior named Andy who wants to be a recording company executive. His site is worth reading because rarely in our experience has any writer said the same thing so many times in virtually the same language. Some of Tim's critics know that he's a shill for the Democrats. We learned this at a site called BoycottLiberalism.com, which sounds like an interesting idea. It also sounds like it's not working.

What else? Tim has his own page at the International Movie Database site. He has played himself in a TV show on at least one occasion. At another site called MediaWhoresOnline.com, Tim has the honor of being listed as the Number One media whore. Not bad for a kid from Buffalo who went to Canisius High School, eh?

We know we haven't done nearly enough by this superstar luminary of journalism. The truth is, we just never really paid much attention to him before. Way back in our Year 2000 edition of Shuteye Nation, we put down everything we knew at the time.

Tim Russet. Leading TV journalist and host of Meat for the Press. Is he the potato Dan Quail couldn't spell? No? Oh. That's all we had to say about him for now.

Obviously we were wrong about the potato thing, which we're sorry about. But it doesn't leave us much more to say. We'll try to do better next time around.







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