The LuLac Edition #496, June 13th, 2008
PHOTO INDEX: TIM RUSSERT FROM MEET THE PRESS.
I first heard of Tim Russert in early 1990 when Rush Limbaugh railed against him as this Washington insider who all of a sudden got the plum promotion to be the moderator of “Meet The Press”. What Limbaugh did not know was that Russert was someone who would transform Sunday morning TV into a giant meeting place for politicians and citizens of America. Russert brought to the broadcast humor, incisive questioning but more importantly a sense of history. When he took over the broadcast, the heritage cornerstone of NBC News was operating on fumes. Taking the show to one hour, Russert carved out a niche on Sunday morning TV that would revive the program but also transform the political landscape. While he did things to make the show more contemporary, like utilizing the modern tools like set design, and internet, he embraced the heritage of “Meet The Press”. With his “Press” minutes or retrospectives, Russert celebrated the past while reporting the present. He was the type of man, host, moderator who did not shy away from his past. He proudly spoke of his hometown Buffalo, their usually poor performing teams, the Bills, Sabres and Bisons as well as his family. It was not uncommon for him to do a “shout out” to his dad, “Big Russ” or display a tie his son bought for him for Father’s Day or his birthday. Russert spoke here locally and was a big hit. Recently, in my opinion I felt his coverage of the 2008 campaign was bordering on breathless fawning of Barak Obama and unfairness to Senator Clinton. But that said, maybe it was me. Russert always had the facts, knew the inside games and enjoyed immensely the game that is politics in America. As he is mourned, there will be reports about his weight and even allegations that he was workaholic. Maybe. But as stated here before on this site, people who get in broadcasting get “the bug”. They work holidays and all nights at a 250 watt radio station, they miss time away from their families in pursuit of the big story. Or if they were fortunate enough to be Tim Russert, you reported the results of a primary till 1AM, went on “Morning Joe” at 6AM, got on a plane to cover a story, get back to do “Nightly News” and then prep for Sunday morning. No normal person would want this schedule, let alone thrive on it like Russert did. His contemporaries on the cable news channels pointed out Tim thought he was the luckiest man alive doing what he did. It was almost beyond his comprehension that he got paid for what he did. He had “The Bug”. The broadcast and media people who read this site will know what I mean. Although he is mourned, we will remember this larger than life presence who never dreamed that he’d be the top story in the middle of a Presidential election campaign. There will be a hole in Sunday Morning TV as well as the discourse of politics in America. In a way, it’s ironic I heard of Russert first through Rush Limbaugh because the late moderator was the “anti Limbaugh”. (Russert even invited Rush on Meet The Press much to the outrage of his liberal friends). While Limbaugh talks of the ideology of today, Russert took us back on a journey of his youth, telling us what shaped him. Seeing JFK in Buffalo like many of us saw him here in NEPA, rooting for a team that was more unsuccessful than not, remembering Vietnam, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King’s death and commemorating them not as musty historical tidbits but part of what made him the guy who shook his head at the wonder of it all. Guys like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson would’ve loved him because he understood politics, what it took to win and how to lose gracefully. With him suddenly gone, we now move on. Russert’s tagline was “If it’s Sunday, it’s Meet The Press”. It will again be Sunday, but never, ever the same.