Saturday, June 14, 2008

Big Russ

Tim Russert, the long time host of Meet the Press and the NBC Washington Bureau chief, died yesterday of a heart attack. I wanted to write something yesterday, but I couldn't quite find a coherent train of thought. Tim Russert had been the host of Meet the Press for nine years when he became known to a much larger audience on election night 2000. With his constant and prophetic refrain of "Florida, Florida, Florida" and his little white chalkboard, he became one the most recognizable faces in news. His opinion became so respected that when he called the Democratic race for Obama after the North Carolina and Indiana primaries, that in itself was treated as a news story.

I think, as we enter what may very well be one of the most important elections in American history, we will enter it without one of our most important tools. I don't mean to minimize Russert by equating him to a mere implement, however making an informed decision in the voting booth requires only one thing, information. And that was the tool that Russert helped to provide us with every Sunday morning. My Co-contributor, Sandy Jimenez, said that there are other people in journalism who are as smart as Russert, but there may not be another one who can make the topic of politics as interesting as Russert did. He was able to give his viewers not only knowledge, but also he was able to pass along his genuine enthusiasm for politics. He loved the game of politics as much as any movie, sports or trivia buff loves their interests and his gift was in being able to get his audience to share in his excitement.

In watching Russert on Sunday mornings, the thing that stood out for me was his amazing preparation for every interview. His style was simple and straight forward, be prepared and never be afraid to ask the tough question. I have no idea who is going to fill his shoes on Sunday, but I would be amazed if they are able to find someone as competent and frankly as entertaining as he was. So as we enter this last phase of this election cycle, I think that we are going miss Tim Russert more than we realize. We the people, who knew him only through the image that was projected on our TV's and the information he provided us through his commentary and on Meet the Press every Sunday morning, move forward without perhaps the last truly impartial voice in media . For those who knew him, I know the wound is much deeper and much more personal and I can only pass along my deepest condolences to his friends and family. We the people will grieve as well for what we have lost. Rest in peace, Tim and thanks for everything.

1 comment:

Sandy Jimenez said...

Thanks for this perspective on the loss of Tim Russert yesterday. I really couldn't do it. We had David Brinkley for so much longer; it's a shame to now lose such an eloquent and encyclopedic intellect. This man was simply a giant. Tim Russert was an outsized intellectual colossus strolling hip-deep through a sea of pikers and hacks. He was one part historian, one part prosecuting attorney, one part weatherman -and somehow, he was all newsman through and through. He was the news media’s own John Madden, charts, scribbles and all.
Anyone who thinks Tim Russert was just another talking head, should look at his moderating/questioning of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and compare it with the absolute jackassery served up by co-moderators Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos when they hosted their Clinton/OBama televised debate on ABC back on April 15 of this year.
With this historic presidential election coming and the occasional moments and acts of sobering sanity like the Supreme Court ruling Michael Hew wrote of in the earlier post preceding this one, it sure would've been nice to continue relying on Tim Russert's Sunday morning analysis because… well you know; Tim actually did what those sycophants and hypocrites at Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Channel claim to do.

Funny thing is, George W. Bush of all people praised Tim Russert for being tough but fair. Frankly, I think Tim Russert went easy on George W Bush every time. It was beyond a respect for the office and more akin to a direct capitulation to this strange era we Americans have entered where the president's "feelings" (another smokescreen; the “pretense of offense”) have to be spared, lest a pointed question from a journalist, -any pointed question that demands a direct answer- be construed as an attempt to "attack" him. I think there was also something in Tim Russert that did not want to pick on the dumb kid so to speak.
People have disagreed with many of my assessments of our current president on this blog, but no one, not one single person has ever been willing to say President Bush is smart.
Now, I don’t fault Mr. Russert for not embarrassing George W Bush and exposing our president’s contrived folksiness as nothing more than simplemindedness and superficiality, but I wish Mr. Russert had suspended his impeccable sense of decency in his interviews with our president and vice president just once, because while it may be bad manners to tell someone they are stupid, it's not rude to tell a liar that you know he's lying.
All said, I miss Tim Russert already. I will watch “Meet The Press” tomorrow fully prepared to be stunned anew by his passing.

It is no exaggeration that this is a great loss for our country and its crumbling Fourth Estate.
Rest in peace Tim Russert.