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Tim Russert’s Rolodex
Spare Me the Libby Trial

Enabler to the Decider

Let me make this confession about the Lewis Libby trial. I vaguely know that it’s tangentially about who leaked what to whom regarding the identity of Valerie Plame or Wilson or whatever name the CIA (ex?) agent goes by these days. Beyond that, I know next to nothing and have wanted to know nothing. I have no idea if Libby is playing the role of good-fall-guy, if Tim Russert is some sort of savior of justice, if Judith Miller put a twist in the whole affair, if Cheney came off badly or better. I haven’t followed the trial, nor will I, for these two reasons: First, to obsess over this case anymore is becoming crass, in the sense that the outing of a CIA agent, even if it was illegal, reveals how scabrous Washington works, but pales in comparison with the far more scabrous and lethal ways the Bush junta has been working to this day whether or not the Libby-Plame-Novak business ever happened. In that sense, the Libby trial is a diversion, a sideshow that, all told, does Bush’s bidding for deflecting from more grave (more mass grave) matters. Second, every time I glance at the headlines referring to the Libby trial, I see a name that smacks of A-list Washington back-scratchers, whether it’s politicians, lobbyists or, the worst of them, journalists. People who cavort at the same parties, swap the same jokes, the same wives, the same pimps. People who present one face publicly and an entirely different face to each other, journalists especially included. Tim Russert above all: he is the insider’s insider, a journalist in name only whose independence is a façade, whose act every Sunday is a theatrical rendition of toughness, rather than toughness itself, played with guest stars from a narrow, revolving, mostly white, mostly conservative, entirely establishment Rolodex that would never dare question the premise of the play. The toughness is within narrow bounds of challenges that never go beyond the utterly deferential. The mere fact that Russert keeps inviting the same so-called newsmakers on his show and pairing them up against each other (or rather with each other), as opposed to inviting more insurgent-like critics, more outsiders, as opposed to instigating more subversiveness than abetting subservience, shows him to be official Washington’s vassal, as safe a show as there is: Larry King for wonks. Look at his recent guests: Feb. 4, John Edwards. Jan. 28, Chuck Schumer, David Vitter (Republican senator from Louisiana), Michael Gerson (Bush’s former speech-writer and Ecclesiastical wannabe). Jan. 21, John McCain, Edward Kennedy. Jan. 14, Stephen Hadley, Chris Dodd, Jon Kyl, Joe Lieberman, Chuck Hagel (in other words a wingnut and four senatorial funerals). And on it goes. What’s the point? The Russert show is weekly strut and bull session that reinforces the hermetic nature of the Washington bubble. The Libby trial is an extension of that. I venture to guess that not a single one of the so-called star witnesses in the trial haven’t appeared at least a half dozen times on Russert’s show. Sure the trial is revealing, sure it’s a way to look inside the inner workings of powerful Washington. But really: what is it revealing that’s actually new to anyone? And what will it solve, what justice will be served, what punishments will be meted out when men like Novak, Cheney and even Russert, those enactors and enablers of scandalous policies and wars, will continue to be where they are today, unscathed, their speaking fees slightly fattened by the added exposure? So spare me. The Libby trial, like the assassination of Saddam around Christmas, is the non-story of the month.

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