UPDATE: You can watch a portion of Chuck's interview of President Obama here. Obama discusses immigration reform. Chuck repeatedly interrupts him. Edgy. NBC News will livestream the interview at 9:00 am ET Sunday. Maybe here. Update Update: Actually, here. Here's a clip of the clip:
Everything that’s been published about the incipient Chuck Todd Era of 'Meet the Press' indicates that the goal is to amplify the insufferable, backslappy culture that already pervades the Sunday shows. -- Simon Miloy of Salon
The big news yesterday came not via our usual, relatively reliable sources but from the consistently scummy "Page Six" gossip at the New York Post, via contributor Akhilleus. Emily Smith reports,
NBC is bringing in Luke Russert, son of the late beloved 'Meet the Press' host Tim Russert, as a regular panelist on the Sunday morning show in a bid to turn around its catastrophic ratings slide, Page Six has exclusively learned.
Also joining new moderator Chuck Todd’s team will be former Republican congressman and 'Morning Joe' host Joe Scarborough, who sources say 'is taking on a larger role within NBC News as a senior political analyst and would be one of the regular Sunday panelists.'
We’re told the move is part of a plan to bring a right-leaning voice to the program....
Nia-Malika Henderson of the Washington Post and a few others, including NBC’s chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, are also said to be in the mix for a new panel.
I'm no admirer of former Clinton prosecutor Joe Scarborough. But I admit it does make sense to have him on "Meet the Press" to represent a right-wing point of view. If you don't listen to the actual words that come out of Joe's mouth, you'll find a personable, affable guy who is not nearly as caustic as the regular Sunday roundtable winger guests -- Mary Matalin, George Will, Peggy Noonan, Newt Gingrich. That Scarborough is obstreperously, proudly, serially, ignorant comes with the territory; it's a must for people of his political persuasion and depth.
Nia-Malika Henderson -- whom Chuck has apparently designated to be his minority BFF -- is fine, though sometimes her roots at Politico show. Chuck's choice, however, leads me to suspect that he was afraid to pick the smartest, quickest wit among NBC's on-air black personalities -- Joy-Ann Reid. Another good choice, whom Chuck rejected: Prof. Melissa Harris-Perry. I reckon Chuck didn't want a black lady sidekick who was way sharper than he is.
AND, if you must have an old person with whom the codgers who are your primary (only??) audience can relate, I suppose Mrs. Alan Greenspan isn't the worst choice. She isn't quite as insipid as, say Cokie Roberts, and she does have deep creds, having been the first credentialed woman reporter to cover the Grover Cleveland administration. (That's the second Grover Cleveland administration.)
It's also a swell idea to counter Mitchell with a youngish pundit, a news junkie whose interests give her a wide understanding of politics & public policy but who at the same time can connect with people who usually get their news from "The Daily Show." Because of msnbc, it so happens that the network has quite a few young, highly-qualified on-air personalities: Steve Kornacki, Chris Hodges Hayes,* Alex Wagner, Ari Melber, to name a few. msnbc also often has young guest commentators or stand-in hosts like Ezra Klein.
So, with all these excellent choices -- and of course with hundreds of other choices currently outside NBC -- Chuck opts for Luke Russert. To be fair, legacies aren't necessarily dopes. To be fair, the Boy Russert is a dope. OR, as Hamilton Nolan of Gawker put it in a piece titled "'Meet the Press' to be Reimagined as Garbage Dump,' perhaps in the context Chuck himself had in mind, Luke "is himself basically just a dim 29-year-old dude, a valuable new demographic for MTP."
Alex Pareene nailed the Trouble with Luke a couple of years ago:
... plenty of nepotism beneficiaries are wonderful writers and talented people. If you’re raised by interesting people and get a good education at home and at the finest schools, you really ought to turn out pretty smart. But Russert is emblematic of the sort of nepotism that gives nepotism a bad name. He’s not a wonderful writer or a particularly talented person. And unlike Chelsea Clinton and her very silly 'reporting good news about people who do charity or something' beat, he’s actually got a real journalism job that someone else without the name Russert could be doing much more effectively. He’s not even particularly good on TV.
Here's Russert the Younger, just this week, showing his sports acumen: "So, let’s call a spade a spade. The reason Michael Sam isn't on any active rosters isn't because he can’t play and isn’t because of the media circus, the reason why there is a slowness to signing him to a practice squad is probably because he's gay." I have no idea why Michael Sam isn't playing pro ball, but I know you don't lead into a comment about a black person by "calling a spade a spade." Idiot. ...
... Being a young guy, Luke has an abiding interest in sports. Here, while filling in for Andrea Mitchell, he cuts off an interview with Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) to "take a phoner" with a Cleveland sports reporter who broke the news that Le Bron James had joined the Cleveland Cavaliers. (More on this from Matt Wilstein of Mediaite here.) ...
... AND in more basketball news, Luke hoped again hope that boxer Floyd Mayweather would buy the L.A. Clippers team after racist owner Donald Sterling was drummed from the league. Outside the ring, Mayweather likes to box, too. He "has dodged significant jail time several times in domestic violence cases in Las Vegas and Michigan," a string of "wins" that came to an end in Las Vegas, when a judge sentenced him to 90 days for beating up his then-girlfriend. Also, Mayweather has made racist remarks about at least one opponent. Perhaps in Luke's mind, that makes Mayweather a perfect replacement for Sterling.
Sports reporting aside, Luke's pragmatic intellectualism should be a great asset on "MTP." Here he is in an on-air discussion this past summer "about the drug war and the immigration crisis at the American border. The money quote: You know what's one way to fix all this, Alex? If people in America would stop doing drugs when they go out at nightclubs every frickin' weekend.' 'Wow,' host Alex Wagner replied. 'Luke Russert conducting his own war on drugs.'" C'mon, Alex. Luke Russert just solved two problems in one sentence. AND totally dropped the dudeness.
Well, Luke isn't an expert on everything. Marcy Wheeler reproduces the transcript of that time Dylan Ratigan took Luke to the woodshed for his support of free trade agreements -- "it's a jobs creator!" Luke was completely flummoxed that anyone would question the rectitude of free trade agreements, much less claim they fostered the slave trade, murders & bank fraud. "You threw me off my game there a little bit," he says to Ratigan. Ratigan is long-gone from msnbc. And Luke is moving up the ladder. I guess we know who was right!
If he doesn't know much about policy, Luke does know politics. In 2012, he tweeted that the Democrats' giving Elizabeth Warren a prime-time slot at there convention had no "benefit" since Warren was "such a lightning rod for criticism." Also, too, maybe Republicans shouldn't have allowed Mitt Romney to speak at their convention after that 47 percent remark resulted in so much sparkly criticism. Charlies Pierce remarked at the time,
Elizabeth Warren was a janitor's daughter, the first member of her family who graduated from college, who worked her way up to become a tenured professor at the finest law school in the country. And Luke Russert, who's passing idiotic class-based judgments against her, is ... incredibly not any of that.
As it turned out, the very popular Sen. Warren gave a helluva a convention speech. For a mere $10,000-$15,000, you can have Luke come speak to you personally. The chance of his coming close to delivering the likes of Warren's stemwinder: somewhere around Fed interest rates.
Luke does know from airline travel, & he is ready to advise the flying public. He doesn't think much of people who bitch & moan about TSA regulations. Andrew Kirell of Mediaite: "MSNBC
resident dudebro reporter Luke Russert has a simple message for those complaining about new TSA rules that will require U.S.-bound passengers to turn on their cellular devices before boarding: 'Sack up!'” That's what he said on msnbc. I doubt if Chuck will allow Luke to use expressions like on the Real Network. Also, Luke really, really likes TSA-Pre -- he compares it to Moses' parting the Red Sea -- & thinks travellers should suck up (as opposed to sack up) and pay for it.
But even if he doesn't know much about a subject, Luke can always find an NRA handout or a Scott Walker press release to crib. From Daily Kos: Speaking to his guest Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, on the subject of gun control & school safety, Luke opined that "we need armed guards in the schools because, well, he has seen them at college football games. And increasing mental health services is a swell idea that should be paid for by gutting teachers’ pensions."
AND Luke has perfected the Beltway standard "both sides do it." When funnyman Louis Gohmert (RTP-Texas) "proposed an amendment to ban the president from playing golf until he resumed tours at the White House that had been canceled to prevent Secret Service furloughs due to automatic budget cuts," Russert told msnbc's Martin Bashir the move "looks bad on both sides." Bashir, amazed, challenged Russert, who stuck to his guns, insisting that cancelling White House tours was "petty." Of course, Bashir, like Ratigan, is gone from msnbc. And Luke is moving up the ladder. Lesson: do not fuck with the Scion of Tim!
"His Twitter feed," Alex Pareene wrote back in 2012, "presents a perfectly dull person with perfectly banal thoughts." It hasn't improved. After the Thad Cochran-Chris McDaniel primary, Luke tweeted that "only in America" could African-Americans do stuff in Mississippi. Probably true.
So just maybe Luke Russert is "dull" and "banal." But, people, it's the demographics. NBC may be stooping low, but they are stooping to conquer the kids. They have retained Luke to bring that youthful perspective to the stodgy Sunday mornings coming down. Herein is an awfully cute example of Russert's youthful perspective: he repeatedly asks Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi if having such an old lady as leader "prohibits the party from having a younger leadership & (stammer) hurts the party in the long term":
(... Whoa, Nancy, don't get upset. At least Luke didn't kill you off before you died, as he did old Congressman Bill Young of Florida.) ...
... Russert, who understandably took flak for asking such an insulting question of Pelosi, fielded the shrapnel as a reflection of his super-dudeness: “I think honestly if someone else had asked that question it wouldn’t have been as big as it was. I think there’s a desire by people to sort of frame it as 'Nancy Pelosi goes after Luke Russert ... DUN DUN DUN.'”
Here he is asking a similar question, with equal grace, to veteran Congressman Charlie Rangel, then mired in a serious ethics scandal. Covering for Luke-Boy -- none other than Chuck Todd:
... Luke himself puts down Rangel's reaction to his question as a "blame-the-media" response.
Should you think Luke-Boy is full of himself, he begs to differ:
Now, should you want to be on? Yes. Everyone’s competitive; everyone wants to be on TV, there’s nothing wrong with that. But if I’m on 100 times instead of 106 times, it’s not the end of the world for me.... I’m more than content doing the things that are doled out.
AND He's Got Talent. Just ask him:
The news media is a results-oriented business. I don’t think a company like NBC would pay me if I wasn’t qualified and wasn’t able to produce on this level.... There will always be people who will say, ‘Oh, he’s only gotten where he is because of his father,’ and that certainly helped. But I’ve been able to stay here because of me.
Given Luke's documented lameness, you may be asking, "Why are they doing this?" My own theory is that NBC News is a self-perpetuating mediocrity, the suits -- including those who wear skirts -- aren't very bright, don't give a flying fuck about journalism & think goals like "excellence" & "integrity" are for wusses. But I wouldn't discount Driftglass's theory either:
Meanwhile, unless this is some eleven-dimensional chess, Inception shit and someone has gotten into Luke Russert's dreams and convinced him to get in there and deliberately tear down his Daddy's empire, none of this makes a lick of sense.
* Thanks, Barbarossa.