I think Matt's remarks on the passing of Tim Russert strike the right balance between respect for the man's achievements and honesty about what Matt - and many others - viewed as the weaknesses of the Russert interviewing style. But I'd take a little issue with this comment:
The blue-collar persona was, in many respects, a bizarre posture for a multi-millionaire television celebrity.
This is something you hear a great deal from contemporary liberals, whether the "ordinary Joe" affect in question belongs to Russert or George W. Bush, Bill O'Reilly or Lou Dobbs. And obviously there can be something unpleasant about this sort of persona, particularly when it's wedded to a chip-on-your-shoulder, bullying sensibility, and particularly when it requires what Mike Kinsley memorably described as "downward social climbing." But there's also something unpleasant about the insistence that rich Americans - especially self-made rich Americans - don't have the right to stay true to their blue-collar roots, and that public figures who like to talk about their Rust Belt hometowns and their working-class Dads and their favorite sports teams are somehow all frauds and phonies and reverse-poseurs. (Thus Paul Waldman: "That Russert no doubt actually prefers the Bills to other teams makes it no less of an affectation." Really?) A blue-collar persona on an inside-the-Beltway anchor can be fake and deeply irritating, but it doesn't have to be: To wax Laschian, or Kausian, there's a lot to be said for refusing to let your paycheck (and yes, your summer home) stand in the way of your sense of social equality, and your commitment to giving blue-collar America a voice in a white-collar town. I had my problems with the Russert style of interviewing as well, but it's hard to see how he would have been a better anchor if he hadn't self-consciously tried to ask questions that he thought his Dad's friends back in upstate New York would want the powerful to answer. Maybe he didn't live up to the role he assigned himself - Buffalo's man in Washington - but his viewers, and American democracy, are better off because he tried.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.