Archive for Monday, June 16, 2008

Russert’s death leaves huge void

June 16, 2008


— When Tim Russert took over "Meet the Press" in 1991, he was already well-known to political reporters as the shrewd, inventive and very funny flack for Pat Moynihan and Mario Cuomo - a spokesman almost as quotable as those two marvelously gifted speakers.

We didn't know what kind of a journalist Tim would be - or even if he were serious about being one. It didn't take long to figure out that he would be one of the best - and most fearless - in the business.

When "Meet the Press" went to Texas in 1992 to interview Ross Perot, the wealthy businessman-turned-independent presidential candidate took strong offense to Russert's aggressive questions, and threatened to walk out halfway through. Tim stared him down, and the interview ran its full course.

Sitting next to him many Sunday mornings on the NBC set, I had a close-up view of his mind at work - testing, probing, moving on. His questioning was completely efficient, but never officious. Both the viewers and the guests could tell he really liked the newsmakers he was interviewing.

I am generally a skeptic when it comes to people - and there are many of them - who jump from the political world into television or punditry. I almost always suspect some of them are just waiting to move back. But Tim was clearly smitten with his new world. He loved his NBC buddies and he bragged on them. And he loved talking to that big audience, sharing and showing off his political smarts.

He never would have left journalism. Nothing else gave him that kind of charge. But as soon as the camera lights went off at 10 a.m. on Sunday, he relaxed. Ali, the NBC butler, brought out the platters of shrimp and glasses of juice, and the reporters who had been on the roundtable (and sometimes the last interviewee) would join Tim and executive producer Betsy Fischer for a lengthy exchange of political gossip. When a birthday or anniversary was imminent, there would be cake - and at Christmas, a brass ensemble would play carols.

What the television audience did not know was how generous Tim was in his personal relationships. Family came first, but he took the time for friendships, and he nourished them. That is why his death on Friday leaves such a large void in this community.

David Broder is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


BigPrune 9 years, 11 months ago

Since Tim Russert is gone does this mean we will see a new Family Guy?

BigPrune 9 years, 11 months ago

That is EXACTLY what I was thinking, err wondering cato.Would this mean bozo is related as well?

cato_the_elder 9 years, 11 months ago

I wonder whether Matthew Rothschild is related to Scott Rothschild.

Marlo Angell 9 years, 11 months ago

I can't even imagine watching this year's election coverage without Tim Russert. He is the only reporter I've seen ask the candidates tough questions but still come off as a nice guy. It is a true loss. I really missed him on Meet the Press.

jonas 9 years, 11 months ago

Oh hell, madmike, it's hardly equivalent to the deluge of hate that poured out from certain posters in the wake of Ted Kennedy's cancerous death sentence, is it?

meggers 9 years, 11 months ago

OO,I'm guessing Chuck Todd will be the new MTP moderator. He's not overtly partisan and I believe that Russert was something of a mentor to him. I was surprised when he left The Hotline to go to NBC, but I suspect that Russert had a lot to do with that decision.

Jeff Kilgore 9 years, 11 months ago

His death is sad, certainly, but let's not lose our minds.At present, we have installed an arrogant, incompetent, and heartless president who has ignored Constitutional law, who has ignored people magnitudes more intelligent than himself, who has left our nation in unrecoverable debt, and we sit here and boo hoo a reporter who asked "tough questions"? That's silly to me. Not comic, silly.Our society isn't informed enough to make the call of whether we've lost a great journalist. If SOFTBALLS aren't lobbed at Bush Inc., then Bush supporters are stunned. Russert was a part of this, and he knew it. You can't ask Bush questions unless you've been "approved" to speak to him. Some democracy, huh? And if you criticize him at all, you're called names and are guilty of spewing liberal agenda. So "liberal" must mean "law-abiding." It used to mean forward-looking.Anyway, it used to be that the media only reported the news, and didn't consider themselves a part of it. Just another example of the blurring of news/entertainment/public figurehood that sits in place of what used to be rational public discourse but is now a symbol of our dull witted citizenry.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 11 months ago

Published on Sunday, June 15, 2008 by The ProgressiveA Discordant Note on Tim Russertby Matthew Rothschild Russert, by all accounts I've heard, including from people on the progressive side who knew him well, was a decent guy.The news of his death came as a shock to me, as it did to everyone: He was a fixture for those of us who are obsessed with politics. And to be stricken of a heart attack at 58 is a fate that no one should have to suffer.I feel bad for his family, and for his colleagues.For many years, I looked forward to watching him on Meet the Press.But I stopped after September 11.As the praise for Russert has overflowed, I just want to register, even at the risk of showing bad manners, a discordant note.I stopped watching him regularly after September 11 because he became a cheerleader for war.He festooned himself with red, white, and blue, and in one of the first programs after the attack, he appallingly said that the Bush Administration would have to prepare the American public for a "disproportionate" response.Such a response is, by definition, immoral under just war theory.And he was essentially inviting Bush and Cheney to kill many times more than the 3,000 people who died on September 11.He also did not explore with Cheney the Vice President's comment to him that the United States would need to go to "the dark side." Some early skepticism about the torture and kidnapping that was to come might have done the country good.A year and a half later, right before the Iraq War, Russert let Cheney get away with an outrageous comment that was pure propaganda.It was March 16, 2003, less than a week before Bush and Cheney started bombing.Russert: And even though the International Atomic Energy Agency said he does not have a nuclear program, we disagree.[Note the pronoun "we."]Cheney: I disagree, yes. And you'll find the CIA, for example, and other key parts of our intelligence community, disagree. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.Russert didn't challenge him on that bald-faced lie.When Cheney came back on, almost two years later, Russert played the videotape. But rather than aggressively going after Cheney, Russert soft-pedaled.Russert: Reconstituted nuclear weapons. You misspoke.Cheney: Yeah, I did misspeak. I said repeatedly during the show "weapons capability." We never had any evidence that he had acquired a nuclear weapon.For Russert, who rightfully earned a reputation as a tough questioner, to go easy on Cheney, well, this was not his finest habit.I bring all this up, even at this delicate moment, to point out simply that even great mainstream journalists sometimes bow to patriotism and to power, and when they do, our democracy, and the cause of peace and justice, suffers.

BigAl 9 years, 11 months ago

Actually, Russert was a Democrat. But, he did an excellent job in not letting that cloud his interviews. He was tough on all sides but he did it with respect and never made it personal. We have too many commentators today that do nothing but promote themselves and attack anyone that doesn't agree with them. Russert will be greatly missed.

jonas 9 years, 11 months ago

Thanks, duplenty. While our back-and-forth was certainly facilitated by the fact that I in truth agreed with your position, your argument was a good counter to my devil's advocation. Of course, it did take 5 or 6 back and forths to get to a good level of analysis, any one of which could have easily been hijacked by a good cry of "bigot" or "rabid far-left."

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