Russert: Bush Beef with NY Times 'Going After Messenger' - But What's the Message?

Sure, Tim Russert is a pillar of the great center-left media establishment. You can take the man out of Mario Cuomo's office, but you can't entirely take Mario's office out of the man. Even so, as MSM types go, Russert is among the more fair-and-balanced.

But in his Today show appearance this morning, Tim simply didn't make sense. Asked by Campbell Brown about the White House's anger at the New York Times for its latest divulging on an anti-terror program, Russert responded:

"There is no doubt this was an orchestrated campaign to try to frame this issue of national security versus the media, particularly the New York Times. It resonates with the organized Republican conservative base: taking on the media,liberal media. Remember Spiro Agnew, back in the Nixon administration: the 'nattering nabobs of negativism.'

Alright, fair enough if Russert wants to suggest that politics might have played some part in the White House reaction. But then, curiously, he added this:

"This is not a new message, in terms of going after the messenger. And I don't think it's gonna stop."

Wait a second. "Going after the messenger?" That analysis might make sense if 'the message' was something embarrassing, or worse, regarding the Bush administration. For example, if the Times had, hypothetically, reported on some criminal activity in the Bush administration, and the White House had in turn criticized the Times for the leak, that could be seen as 'going after the messenger.'

But what was 'the message' here? That the Bush administration had implemented an important program to fight terrorism and protect American lives and property. A program that even the Times itself didn't claim to be illegal. There was no embarrassment factor here. To the contrary, but for the harm to the national security, the Bush administration would no doubt be pleased for Americans to know that it's working aggressively to protect them.

This is an example of the MSM being unable or unwilling to recognize that Republicans can act other than out of nefarious motives.

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.