Posted on June 13, 2008
Tim Russert was not just another pretty face
Let’s face it. He wasn’t really a pretty face.
But he was the best at his craft.
He wasn’t a traditional journalist. He migrated from politics to journalism, so he knew well the field that he covered.
You could always sense that Tim loved politics as much as he loved the country.
And he loved giving it to politicians, especially when they deserved it.
Russert was a John Carroll guy. He didn’t come from a fancy Ivy League school, but he could rip to shreds the Harvard and Yale guys, and you really sensed that he enjoyed doing that as well.
And when Russert gave it to the smart guys, he was standing up for everybody else outside the beltway.
I am a White Sox guy, so I always appreciated it when he stuck up for the Buffalo Bills, a team that never quite won it all. By sticking up for the Bills, he was sticking up for all those folks who aren’t the winners in life.
Russert had a fine Jesuit education, so his questioning went beyond the political to the spiritual, philosophical and theological.
I especially enjoyed when he had Cardinal McCarrick on the show. You really felt like you learned something every time you watched.
It was always great to see Tim around town. He wasn’t your typical blow-dried news anchor.
As a matter of fact, Tim never seemed to have a hair in place. But that was part of his charm.
I used to love preparing Speaker Hastert or Tom DeLay for the Russert show. It was like preparing for the Big Leagues.
And Russert seemed to enjoy having those guys on the show, because he knew they were going to make news and that they were important parts of the political process.
Tim played it fair, but that didn’t mean he didn’t have a point of view. He hated bullshit, and he hated spin. His bias was in favor of the truth, and he came to that truth through rigorous research, tough questioning and a deeper understanding of the facts then most.
His staff was the best. Led by Betsy Fischer, the Russert team had as high a standards as he did, and they helped make Meet the Press the best show of its genre.
Russert has always been a personal hero of mine, and when he shot the bull with me, I would feed off it for weeks afterward. He told me once that he liked some stuff that I was writing, and I bragged about it to all of my friends. He was kind of a big deal, but he never let on that he was kind of a big deal.
Sunday morning will never be the same without Tim Russert. This is a very sad day.