Lewis Lapham's forthcoming Harper's column on Tim Russert is not entirely unexpected, given the cranky literary liberal's public pronouncements on the late host of Meet The Press. But Lapham, sometimes slammed as insufferable bore, has spun a compelling essay out of his rough initial pronouncement that "1,000 people came to [Russert's] memorial service because essentially he was a shill for the government." Maybe Lapham's thorough disassembling is so tasty this time around because the reverence for Russert (not to mention his son Luke) was so completely over the top: two days and three nights of televised memorial, or some 96 hours of airtime, by Lapham's count. Lapham's column is called "Elegy For A Rubber Stamp," entertains the concession that Russert was probably a good father and friend and Catholic, and then swifty moves on to saying Russert had "the on-air persona of an attentive and accommodating headwaiter," that his "stock in trade was the deftly pulled punch" and that Russert was a "pet canary." Further excerpts after the jump.
Following the death of NBC's Tim Russert, White House correspondent David Gregory was considered to be on the shortlist to succeed him on Meet The Press. Gregory is known for aggressively questioning White House officials and at one point so upset Bush press secretary Tony Snow that Snow accused him of partisanship, a remark for which Snow later apologized. While such assertiveness no doubt provided some cathartic release to critics of the administration, particularly those outraged at the feeble White House press corps, it may not be enough to get Gregory that Meet The Press gig or any other anchor job. In fact, the Observer today paints a rather grim picture of Gregory's immediate future, asking if he's a "lame duck" at the network, destined end up like — gasp — fellow White House troublemaker Sam Donaldson:
After the election, Tom Brokaw will end his stint as host of Meet the Press (which is too bad, because as smug as the dude is, he's been good). Then no one—least of all NBC—knows what will happen. Howard Kurtz seems to think Ted Koppel might get the job, and Koppel has not ruled that out. But he is old, and he retired from regular TV news to do 50-part documentaries on China. If NBC plans on poaching someone so expensive from ABC, they should go after Diane Sawyer, who is bored with Good Morning America and pissed off at the network for sending Charlie Gibson to the evening news and keeping her in the morning ghetto. DC's elite will be able to get over their horror as the prospect of a lady in the Meet the Press chair by reminding themselves that she's a Republican hack who once dated Kissinger. And so the Sunday Morning Circle Jerk will continue.
Everyone is complaining that Sunday's Tom Brokaw-hosted Meet the Press was too boring. ("A little too much comity!" -Alessandra Stanley. "The Most Boring Meet the Press Ever!" -Jossip.) Is that bad? We didn't watch it, but we're still going to say "no." Look, Tim Russert, may he rest in peace, was a fantastic broadcaster, and yes, he made the show entertaining as hell, but if Tom Brokaw is ditching Tim's trademark "once you said this, now you say this, EXPLAIN YOURSELF" method, more power to him and to NBC. We realize it's not what the Sunday shows are "about," but let's not bitch about how "boring" a quiet, informed political debate is while we're all hand-wringing about how toxic and broken the campaign process has become. Deal? After the jump, a clip of Brokaw interviewing NBC analyst Chuck Todd. Tom's gentle admonishment of Chuck was apparently the most interesting part of the broadcast.
In a lucky move for NBC and fans of Meet the Press, veteran newsman Tom Brokaw is stepping up to replace Tim Russert as the show's moderator-at least through the election-starting next Sunday. "The news was announced on the program today, a little over a week after the death of Tim Russert. A lot has been said in recent days about what Meet the Press means to NBC News and to the nation,' said NBC News President Steve Capus in a press release. 'To have someone of Tom's stature step up and dedicate himself to ensuring its ongoing success is not only a testament to his loyalty to Tim, but his enduring commitment to NBC News and our viewers.'"
Tim Russert's wake is not until Tuesday, but there's already speculation about who will replace the NBC News stalwart as host of Meet The Press. Russert also served as NBC News' DC bureau chief and as a political correspondent on Today, NBC Nightly News and MSNBC, but no one believes a lone replacement will be able to match that hectic schedule. For the Meet The Press gig, the Times came up with the following shortlist, which includes the sure-to-be-controversial option of CBS Evening News host Katie Couric:
Okay, so we love ourselves some Stephen Colbert, we're only human. However! There's something seriously amiss when NBC' s major Sunday news show get is the Comedy Central performer, who is "running" for President in character. "Meet the Press" anchor Tim Russert devoted nearly half of his broadcast this weekend to a fake back-and-forth with a fake candidate.
While the rest of us are drinking and snoozing, the television is trying to transmit important information into our homes. Today, our special correspondent for T.V. punditry catches us up on the week in chat shows. Because we totally wouldn't watch that shit if you paid us. Get your tinfoil hats on!