Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Via Atrios, Paul Waldman writes:

If an interviewer forgets to bring up Buffalo, Russert surely will. Asked by Kurtz how he avoids getting an inflated ego when he spends time interviewing presidents (a softball question designed just for Russert; try to imagine Kurtz asking the same thing of Tom Brokaw), Russert responded, "If you come from Buffalo, everything else is easy. Walking backwards to school, for a mile in the snow, grounds you for life." When Bill Moyers asked Russert whether he relied too much on the word of Bush administration officials during the run-up to the Iraq War, Russert replied, "Look, I'm a blue-collar guy from Buffalo. I know who my sources are. I work 'em very hard. It's the mid-level people that tell you the truth." Any questions about his being too close to the establishment are met with "Blue-collar! Buffalo!", brandished like a cross before the vampire of accountability. Russert may be the only journalist in America who considers all his conversations with government officials off the record unless they request otherwise -- an extraordinary gift to the powerful and an inversion of ordinary journalistic practice -- but that doesn't make him an insider. Because he's from Buffalo.

And one easy way to bring his hometown into any episode of Meet the Press is to invoke the Buffalo Bills, which Russert does again, and again, and yet again. It's his way of saying, "See, I'm just a regular guy -- I like football! And not only that, I have a favorite team, the one from my blue-collar home town!" That Russert no doubt actually prefers the Bills to other teams makes it no less of an affectation.

Amazingly enough, "the swells," as Waldman calls them, used to know better than to fall for Russert's faux-blue collar shit. From the NYT, circa 1993:

They're back! No, not Larry King and Ross Perot. There's an even more tedious tribe -- grown-ups who think it matters who wins today's Super Bowl. Of course, it is just another television program and they are within their rights to watch it. But do they have to share?

Tim Russert, the otherwise levelheaded host of "Meet the Press," has been running amok all week. A Buffalo native, he tried last Sunday to enlist a startled, but properly loyal Daniel Patrick Moynihan and a clearly appalled Mary McGrory in a television crusade for his hometown team.

Senator Moynihan allowed that the Buffalo Bills were a fine barbershop quartet. The immensely civilized Ms. McGrory was rendered almost speechless when Mr. Russert plopped a football helmet on her desk. "I'm a baseball fan," she finally confessed.

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