Mark Leibovich makes forbidden remarks: We haven’t yet read This Town, Mark Leibovich’s tattletale opus about Insider Washington.
Still, we’ve read the pages permitted on-line. In those pages, Leibovich says several naughty things—naughty but instructive.
By law, these forbidden remarks must be ignored by the rest of the “press corps.” So you can read these statements somewhere, we’ll reproduce them here.
Let’s start with this, a snapshot from Tim Russert’s memorial service in June 2008, the scene which opens the book. As she enters the cathedral, Hillary Clinton ignores a pitch from a Countdown producer:
LEIBOVICH: “It is a pleasure to meet you,” Clinton responds to the eager producer, while the smile stays tight and she keeps right on walking. Hillary has a memorial service to attend: the memorial service of a man she and her husband plainly despised and who they believed (rightly) despised them right back.Say what? The late Tim Russert despised the Clintons? Given Russert’s massive importance during the Clinton/Bush years, that is a striking assertion.
Have you seen that statement debated now that it’s been advanced in a much-discussed book?
A few pages later, Leibovich gives that remarkable claim some context, although he doesn’t say that’s his intention:
LEIBOVICH: Tim liked his seat in the corporate boardroom and his large home in Nantucket, “The House That Jack Built,” as the sign outside identified the Nantucket house—Jack being Jack Welch, the longtime CEO of NBC’s corporate parent, General Electric. Russert and Brokaw attended Ronald Reagan’s funeral as guests, and then walked outside the Washington National Cathedral to anchor the coverage for NBC.We’ve never read that Russert’s $7 million summer home bore that sign, although we’ve often urged readers to follow the money to that home just over the dunes from Welch’s crib. Here’s why:
Tim lived in the sweet spot of the big, lucrative revolving door between money, media and politics. He also died there. Every wannabe, is and has-been in Washington was issuing statements.
Welch wasn’t just the CEO of GE. He was also a near-billionaire conservative Republican, as was his perfect right, of course.
But when you see Leibovich say that Russert despised the Clintons, you might want to link that claim back to the oodles of money he gained from employment by his mentor, Welch. We’ve long suggested that you make that connection, especially when you consider the poisonous coverage of the Clintons, then of Candidate Gore, that came from Russert and Chris Matthews, whose summer home on that same Nantucket cost just $4.4 million.
Russert and Matthews got wealthy through Welch, as that jocular sign suggested. They also savaged the Clintons, then Candidate Gore, during the era in question.
The career crowd has always refused to discuss this! That said, the way this pair chased Welch all the way out to Nantucket has always been a funny story. Journalists would have beaten that story to death if it hadn’t involved their own.
But it did involve their own, and it involved their own interests. For that reason, through all these years, they have kept you from hearing that story. You haven’t been allowed to think about the possible role played by Welch.
Russert’s house on Nantucket was called “The House That Jack Built?” Assuming that’s true, we’ve never heard anyone mention that before. In this third excerpt from This Town, that silence gets explained:
LEIBOVICH: [Russert] was indeed adored—in that unmistakable vintage of Washington “adored” that incorporated fear and need and sucking up. You needed to be on Meet the Press to be bestowed with a top-line standing in what Joan Didion called “that handful of insiders who invent, year in and year out, the narrative of public life.” You needed to be friends with Tim, the closer the better...What explained the poisonous coverage aimed at the Clintons, then at Candidate Gore, by Welch’s young men from Nantucket? We’re not sure, but their coverage changed world history, and it involves a very funny story, with Russert and Matthews huddled on the island with the extended family of East Coast Irish Catholics Welch hired to run NBC News.
This is a very funny story. It’s also an important story about modern world history.
We’ve pushed this story for many years. No one else is willing to tell it, for the reasons which emerge in that third excerpt. No one is going to go near that story.
Dearest Darlings! It just isn't done!