Buffalo Hangs Its Head In Shame as L’il Luke Laughs at Slaves and Dead Workers

Susie linked to this clip.

And while she’s right to point to all the evidence that L’il Luke Russert is an ignorant toad about how many jobs Obama’s trade deals will send overseas, I’m more amazed by his arrogant response to being asked about slave and dead labor.

Here’s my take on the exchange, starting from where Dylan Ratigan first interrupts L’il Luke to call him on the claim trade deals will create jobs.

L’il Luke [reciting a script]: A few things where they could find common ground are free trade agreements that are pending with South Korea and Colombia and Panama. It’s unclear whether or not [overtalk]

Ratigan: Hold on, hold on.

[Luke adopts self-satisfied smile]

Ratigan: Are you referencing those free trade deals?

L’il Luke: I am referencing the free trade deals.

Ratigan: I mean, come on now Luke, let’s talk about that for a second.

[Luke bites his lips]

That Panama deal’s nothing but a bank secrecy haven–

[Luke bursts out laughing]

That’s basically what that Panama deal is.

[Luke finally manages to look serious]

The South Korean deal is a way to hire North Korean slaves to make South Korean products so that we can refund the North Korean government–

[Luke has lost it again, openly laughing]

–After giving them sanctions, I call that the “let’s give them a nuke anyway plan,”

[Luke looking down, trying to compose himself, looks up again, biting his lips]

You know, what are we talking about? [Relents]

I’m giving you a hard time.

L’il Luke: No, I know you are. [Laughs] You threw me off my game there a little bit.

Ratigan: Tell me the truth, Luke.

L’il Luke: Aw look, —

Ratigan: When they discuss the South Korean trade agreement around Congress, do they refer to it as “hey let’s give North Korea a nucl- anyway plan?”

L’il Luke [finally adopting his serious pundit face]: No they do not.

Ratigan: They don’t?

L’il Luke: They say it’s a job creator.

Ratigan: For who? For North Korean slaves?

L’il Luke: For the United States, no, they say for the United States. They say it’s a job creator, can immediately [create] thousands and thousands of jobs.

[finally finding comfort in the Village script again, but trying to move on]

You also heard today from President Obama–

Ratigan: How?

L’il Luke [completely sheepish look]: The [??] of free trade, you take the tariffs away, people, you know, build things here,

Ratigan: No, no no. But the tariffs are away, and if I’m exploiting the ability to access a rigged Chinese currency system and North Korean slave labor,

[L’il Luke furrows his brow slightly, affects to look concerned, bites his lips again, shifts his head]

Seems interesting.

L’il Luke: It does.

Ratigan: My Colombian, the Colombian deal’s my favorite. That’s a big job creator.

[L’il Luke looks worried. He hasn’t studied for this test.]

Whaddya say we do a deal with the only country in the world that openly murders all labor organizers–

[L’il Luke has just decided he’s not having fun anymore; juts out chin, peeved now that Dylan is making him play this game]

–to ensure that they will never ask for a raise ever.

L’il Luke [apparently grasping on something he read in college or heard at a cocktail wienie fest]: Well, Colombia, though, in all fairness, Colombia has had massive strides in improvement in terms of their security. I mean, you’re bringing up something that George Miller–

Ratigan: But I’m saying the murder rate of union organizers on a per capita–

[Juts out chin, affects his serious look]

L’il Luke: Well, that’s why there’s Democratic opposition in the House for it right now and they have to figure out that, you know, technicality there.

“That, you know, technicality.” That Democrats think maybe it’s a bad idea to open into unfettered competition with a country that kills labor organizers. But that slave labor in Korea, that cheap labor in China? That–that sounds interesting.

L’il Luke is only where he is because Daddy combined his down to earth Buffalo roots with actual knowledge and–in the years before his death–access, access, access.

But it’s L’il Luke’s smugness that makes me want to vomit. Ratigan is trying to talk about how working people die over this shit. And Luke, shaken for the moment off his tight Village script, not only doesn’t have the knowledge to engage with Ratigan, but doesn’t even have the respect for the subject to avoid laughing openly.

What do you think of your kid, now, Timmeh Russert? Laughing at the idea of slaves and dead workers?

41 replies
  1. Gitcheegumee says:

    Ya know,(or actually ya don’t),BUT just yesterday as I was attending to some viccistudes of life , I turned on MSNBC to watch and/or listen to Ratigan..

    Luke Russert was on,and I can’t say that this was the topic being discussed, because I got so irritated with that supercilious,unctuious smirk of his I muted the damn show.

    My grandmother used to tell me that there is a wide gulf dividing smart and smart ass.

    May I suggest that L’il Luke possesses neither a navigable means of conveyance,nor the ability to swim?

  2. 4jkb4ia says:

    This is actually perfect for the link to Gil’s post. The central quote, which is from Erica Brown, is this one–

    An indictment of a legal system is ultimately an indictment of society. We all have moments when we ignore the urgent needs of those around us. We don’t do it willfully; we assume that someone else will take care of the problem. Growing up in a democracy, we naturally assume that when agreement cannot be reached between people, a government agency will step in and adjudicate. Our tax payers’ dollars will come through; a social service institution or charitable non-profit will pick up the pieces…

    That is the trade adjustment, I guess, here.

    Dylan Ratigan is cable news, therefore bad. But I know him by reputation enough to interpret that video as Luke Russert laughing because he knows it all–he doesn’t have to rhetoric switch. But Luke Russert does not know it all enough to be on something like Charlie Rose and teach anybody anything, and I agree with DougJ about Charlie Rose for the most part.

  3. Phil Perspective says:

    What do you think of your kid, now, Timmeh Russert?

    Come on, EW!! Lil’ Luke is just a chip off the old block as you well know!! There is a reason Big Timmeh! was Darth Cheney’s favorite punching bag.

  4. allan says:

    Meritocracy for us, nepotacracy for the chosen ones.

    As the late Anne Richards said of Shrub,
    Luke was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.

  5. selise says:

    sorta interesting (in a stomach turning way) that the debt limit / so-called trade deals are brought up together.

    first, weird thing about the so-called trade deals is, as mentioned they don’t have much to do with trade. but the non-trade aspects have been killers and i’m glad to see some of those issues of human rights, rule of law, self government., etc. brought up.

    back to the debt limit thing….

    i don’t get the nationalistic outrage regarding “sending jobs overseas” given 1) how many non-americans lives we’ve destroyed with the so-called trade deals we’ve shoved down other people’s throats and 2) how much we have benefitted from the dollar as major global reserve currency.

    full employment, including better jobs, is a matter of domestic — not trade — policy. domestic policy which requires greater fed deficit spending (which could mean lower taxes and/or higher spending depending on one’s politics) in order to compensate for demand leakage, especially due to dollar reserve status.

    our lack of appropriately sized and targeted deficit spending means there is too little global, as well as domestic, aggregate demand and that is very bad for workers (and i don’t mean just here in the usa).

    full employment policies based on progressive economics would be focused on deficit spending and not based on fighting over scarce jobs. the scarce jobs model is race to the bottom, under cover of emotional appeals to nationalism. not progressive and not very effective.

  6. Teddy Partridge says:

    Luke: “May I please speak with Auntie Andrea Greenspan? She’s much nicer to me.”

  7. bailey says:

    Is the inference his father Tim was more? If so, I respond – like father, like son. Tim Russert wouldn’t last a day under EW’s scrutiny. How many times did “company man” Timmy “help” an interviewee away from a tough moment, how many times did he turn an interview into a mutual admiration fest, how many times did he giggle his way around asking the pertinent question.
    Tim Russert was the quintessential “company man”, so follows his son. The only differences are: one generation of of our dumbing down school system and one tv host who refused to treat little Lukie with a deference we regularly bestow on our annointed 2nd generation American Royalty. Good job Dylan R.: you’re the best by far that TV has to offer.

  8. posaune says:

    Just like the Harvard Bus major featured at the end of this Al Jazeera report on income inequality in the US. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdVODFombco&feature=play

    The “entrepreneur” invented (cough) an IM coupon aggregator for grocery shopping. Of course, since he’s a 24-yo at the Bus School, he talks about how nothing has been “given” to him, he has to work hard. But, after working this hard, he can call anyone CEO and get a return call ….. because he has worked so hard! The kicker? He says, excitedly in a raised voice, fast speech, “It’s awesome when you can make something that makes even more money.” Mr. posaune had to take away the laptop last night . . . . the little f- – – – er.

  9. emptywheel says:

    @selise: Deficit spending is necessary but not sufficient here.

    I’m fairly certain (I still haven’t done the post, but hope to) that if the Korea trade deal passed as written, it would lead to GM sourcing most of its Volt production–possibly including its US sales–in Korea.

    Not only would that mean Korea gets the technology we invested US dollars in (both by bailing out GM and in some energy initiatives), but it means all the jobs we might get from the GM investment would instead go to Korea.

  10. emptywheel says:

    @selise: Also, I agree that Americans have often benefitted from the trade deals we’ve stuff down people’s throats.

    But so long as these trade deals are about carving out partial spaces, and so long as they allow movement of goods and capital but not people, they are all designed to hurt workers.

  11. posaune says:

    It’s so obvious that Wall Street has convinced all the pols that all we have to do is “make money, not things.” What trash.

  12. Cregan says:

    You know, this is different subject to a degree, but I really wonder if people here who claim to be for lifting people up and solving poverty really only care about more jobs for themselves.

    As a long time traveler to China, I can say the self directed concern about jobs is #1.

    15-20 years ago, when I first went to China, the place was the most bleak place I had ever seen, and I’ve seen some very bleak ones. Poverty on a scale and depth you could not imagine because you have no reference point for it. By that, I mean it would be like you were a person in 1700’s and I was talking to you about a computer. You’d have no idea what I was talking about.

    Masses and masses of people in incredible destitution and willing to eat anything; rotten, bugged, whatever.

    I remember walking down a sidewalk and seeing something I could not believe I was really seeing. A man, with no arms and legs literally banging his head bloody against the sidewalk in an effort to get sympathy from passers-by–who might give him some money.

    That was not the only time I saw such a thing.

    The transformation in China over those 15 to 20 years–as I go back each year–has been massive. The drab, bleak character of the place changed to real hope and optimism. The MASSES of destitute, impoverished people slowly began to disappear.

    Today, I don’t see people banging their head against the ground or the other things they would do. I see a lot of people FAR happier (well, since they weren’t happy at all to begin, I guess they FIRST had to realize that something called happiness even existed). They have food to eat, they have decent clothes to wear and many, many of them are doing quite well and approaching Western atandards.

    Does everybody have two cars and a nice ski boat to pull behind it, no. But, in comparison with where they started it has been the biggest change from poverty to a basic life the world has ever seen.

    Truly, a completely different place today.

    Yeah, maybe 2% or 3% of our workforce is out of work (instead of 9.2%, we might have 6.2% unemployment) due to it, but hundreds of millions of people can now eat decently and live a happy life instead of a life of utter despair because of it.

  13. pseudonymous in nc says:

    L’il Luke is only where he is because Daddy combined his down to earth Buffalo roots with actual knowledge and–in the years before his death–access, access, access.

    As I said elseblog, Little Russ may have been a faux proletarian, but Littlest Russ is a faux journalist.

    I fully expect that Ratigan received a telling-off for this. Doesn’t look good to show up the legacy kid on air.

  14. emptywheel says:

    @Cregan: Um, you apparently haven’t seen the masses of migrant workers, have you? Ask someone next time you’re there. Many of them are homeless, and they’re in a legally equivalent spot as undocumented workers are here. They do a lot of the building stuff (just as undocumented workers here), but they terribly exposed to both legal crackdowns and fluctuations in work.

    That said, you’re absolutely right that China is much better off (though they’re about to have their bubble crash, too). They got thta way by pursuing a mercantilist approach dictated by the national govt. You seem to oppose such an approach here. So why is it worth celebrating there?

  15. Lynn Dee says:

    Great television. I’d gotten so tired of MSNBC’s pet project, Li’l Luke Russert, it was good to see him get his come-uppance. I was shocked to see that he couldn’t keep himself from grinning and laughing. Then again, laughing appreciatively like he’s “in on the joke” has probably gotten him out of many a tight spot before.

  16. Fractal says:

    @emptywheel: hot dog! A “reply” button. thanks, EW!

    I was tempted by selise’s chill empirical skills, but damn, all the Volt jobs could end up in Korea? WTF?

  17. selise says:


    i may hate the trade deals almost as much as you — don’t disagree in the slightest on that (even if the reasons why are a little bit different).

    fwiw, even if people are allowed to move, they are never (i hope) going to be as transportable as goods. i guess my point is that, given sensible domestic policies, trade in goods doesn’t have to be so damaging to workers and it does not preclude full employment, high wage policies here at home. domestic austerity policies are, i think, the primary problem.

    (it’s the unregulated capital that seems to me to do the most damage — so i hate the wto fsa too!)

  18. selise says:


    ” it means all the jobs we might get from the GM investment would instead go to Korea.”

    when we invest in automation, we lose jobs too. (just as jobs are lost to trade).

    but that change permits improvements in productivity and living standards. (just as the trade deficit and the dollar as reserve currency give us a higher standard of living).

    the question, it seems to me, is not so much to try to devise policies that prevent those jobs from being lost (either to trade or technology), it’s to invest so that better jobs are created, and so that workers don’t suffer — not even a little bit — when they temporarily lose jobs to either trade or technology changes.

  19. Dean says:

    Meanwhile the early morning millionaire’s club on NBC’s “The Today Show” I’m certain were giving the latest rundowns on Casey Anthony, Prince William and Kate, tender human interest stories, etc, etc…

  20. selise says:

    @Cregan: i’m not willing to make it an “either / or” choice when it doesn’t have to be. development doesn’t have to be a zero sum game and there is no reason i know of (well, other than politics and ignorance) we can’t have full employment here (and by that i don’t mean any lousy 6.2% unemployment).

  21. Abusto says:

    A chip off the old block head. Given too much credence due to blood, not experience or ability. The blood does tell in his support of The Powers That Be.

  22. sistermoon says:

    I don’t want to seem insensitive, but every time I see Luke Russert broadcasting from Congress on a national network, I think of all the hardworking real journalists that are toiling in obscurity in East Chahunga. He’s living proof that nepotism is much worse than affirmative action.

  23. Cregan says:


    Let me tell you, I have seen a lot there. I can assure you more than either the typical tourist sees or even the more involved person. Back 15, 20 years ago, I saw things that literally left the people I was with shaking, nearly uncontrollably. Hard to image how far the bottom can really be.

    As I said, not EVERYONE is doing great. But, an undeniable huge percentage of people are FAR< FAR better off than they ever were before. As I said, most people have no reference point on how bad it was there–they haven't seen anything like it here, in Mexico or all but a few places.

    And, even more amazing is the very short time it took.

    Yes, it did happen because of a government directed policy. But, for the most part, that policy was "let the people exercise their own creativity and get the show on the road." The government got out of the way.

    And, I don't mean that in the way that the GOP might mean it here.

    I don't mean it to be critical of some approach here. Only to say that complaining because some guy who has NOTHING, NOTHING might get a little bit of something at the expense of a small percentage of jobs here (if that is even really the cause) might not be the best attitude to take.

  24. emptywheel says:

    @Cregan: It’s actually not a small percentage. It’s pretty much the hollowing out of the middle class here–though not all just because of China. And that’s not China’s fault, it’s just that you can’t not have manufacturing and also have a middle class. The #s don’t work out.

  25. emptywheel says:

    @Cregan: And I worked in the auto industry when in China, which must be a much more centrally run industry than some others, because there’s a ton of mandates from the state.

  26. selise says:


    ” it’s just that you can’t not have manufacturing and also have a middle class. The #s don’t work out.”

    have never seen quantitative analysis on this, where should i look to find one? (not disagreeing, just very very curious/interested). thanks!

  27. rosalind says:

    a China aside: my cousin just returned from Beijing, and said the pollution is unlike anything she’s seen in 30 years of traveling to the Country, just a thick brown fog over everything. she couldn’t get on the plane out fast enough.

    what a health price the population will bear for their “enterprise”.

  28. P J Evans says:

    And the stories about the people who do the actual, physical recycling of the electronics and other things that get sent there (mostly from here). Those aren’t people who are even lower middle-class: they’re minimum-wage nearly-unskilled labor.

  29. chris9059 says:

    I gather you’re not one of the 2% or 3%. How generous of you to sacrifice someone else’s livelihood to help poor people in China.

  30. Kathleen says:

    No doubt that “lil luke” has that job because of his daddy. One can not help thinking that every time he opens his mouth. What a “smug” asshole.

    Ratigan is one of the best things going on MSNBC. One of the best rounds I have ever witnessed was about a topic that MSNBC ever allows to be tackled on that network. Dylan had Glenn Greenwald on and Ratigan and Greenwald went a few rounds with Cliff May on Iran, Israel etc. “Ahmadenejad’s Game” over at Salon. Greenwald goes where so many others will not and bet Ratigan was blasted by MSNBC heads for this take down.

    Rate him number one then Cenk (now gone) then Chris Matthews (even though I often disagree with him)

    EW. One thing I have been wondering about. This debt ceiling team of 12 committee. Will the American public have access to records or documentation about who (which lobbyist) they meet with Sunlight on the process

  31. Cregan says:


    Yes, in a big industry like that, yes. but, the main difference from before and after was the government, for whatever reason, let the people do their thing, and they responded. Again, that is the BASIC shift, but I am sure there were minor aspects of it with a different flavor.

    More at bottom; people would not have been able to start and own businesses before the change, and THAT basic change got the engine going.

    Environments change. Even before industrialization, do-do birds went extinct. things change. It’s a global world, and we can ride the wave or be plowed under.

    This is what all the green jobs talk is about.

    though, the only green job at the moment that matters is one that pays green.

  32. Cregan says:


    Some people might feel a great sense of satisfaction that their sacrifice of the second car helped someone who could not eat, be able to eat.

  33. thatvisionthing says:


    Reminds me of movie Holiday (1938, Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Doris Nolan). Cary is engaged to Kate’s sister Doris, in an extremely wealthy family, who expects him to be a tycoon like her father. But Cary wants to turn down dad’s offer and instead earn “a few thousands” and take a holiday to find himself, while he’s young and feels good all the time. Doris can hardly believe him, and as Cary holds her in his arms she looks up at him with shining eyes and says:

    “But you haven’t any idea yet of how exciting business can be. Oh, Johnny, see it through! You’ll love it, I know you will. There’s no such thrill in the world as making money!”

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