Sunday, June 15, 2008

Reluctantly, It's Time To Say Goodbye To Tim Russert...1950-2008...

This is from USA Today, and it touched me. And so did Tim Russert. Here you go on this Sunday, Father's Day 2008, a day Tim cherished.
Remembering the life of Tim Russert

By Michael Gartner, Special to USA TODAY
Michael Gartner was president of NBC News from 1988-1993.

"Tim Russert didn't want to be on television.
He was a senior executive – an inside guy, a go-to guy, an idea guy – when I joined NBC News as president in 1988. He had a background in politics, and a few months after I signed on I asked him to head the Washington bureau. He didn't want to leave New York and thought he was being shoved aside, but he very reluctantly agreed.
In Washington, he quickly re-established old contacts – he had worked for Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and he seemed to know half the town – and increasingly the morning news conferences at NBC were filled with his inside stories of this, his analyses of that and his predictions of this and that. He was always right.
"Tim," I said to him one day a year or so later, "the news call isn't supposed to be more interesting than the news shows. We've got to get across on the air the stuff you're telling us every morning. You should be on the air."
"No way," he said.
Eventually, he agreed to go on the Today show periodically to talk politics with his equally knowledgeable friend Al Hunt, at the time Washington bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, and, later, as an occasional panelist on the sagging Meet the Press show. But Russert remained mainly an inside guy, an unseen face, a choreographer of coverage.
Finally, I told him he should be – had to be – the moderator of Meet the Press, which wasn't doing well.
"No way," he said again.
We argued. We debated. We fought. He raised objections, I shot them down. At the end, he said, "Look, I can't do it. I'm ugly." "Well, I said with a laugh, I can't argue that one (he had a chubby face that looked like it was made out of Play-Doh) but I'm not looking for a handsome guy, I'm looking for a smart one." Finally, he agreed, and in 1991 he became moderator of the show.
I had some sweatshirts made up with his picture on the front. "Tim Russert," they said, "Not just a pretty face." He was, eventually, amused.
He was made for the job. His training from the Jesuits had sharpened his mind, his lessons from his father had instilled his values, his life in politics had widened his knowledge, and his training as a lawyer had honed his questioning. The show was almost an overnight success, and soon we expanded it to a full hour. Then he — and it — took off.
He used old-fashioned tools in a new-fashioned industry. He used a chalkboard like a coach. He put words – words, of all things! – on the screen to make his point. He was as tough as he was fair, as demanding of himself as he was of his guests. He prepared for each show as if it was a final exam.
Most of all, he was believable. That face turned out to be what my father called "an affidavit face." You looked at him, and you just knew he was telling you the truth.
The show made him rich and famous. I don't know how rich, but a few years ago, when he signed a new, long-term contract with NBC, he called me up to tell me, and he remembered his reluctance about taking the job. He laughed, and he said: "I thank you. My wife thanks you. My son thanks you. And my unborn grandchildren, however many there will be, thank you." It must have been a good deal.
But no matter how rich and famous he became, he always came across on television as a nice guy – who couldn't like a guy who loved Buffalo and who wished his dad Happy Father's Day on the air? – but he was more than nice. He was kind, he was caring, and he was generous.
A few years ago, I called him and asked if he'd make a big speech in Des Moines, where I live. It was part of a lecture series at Drake University. I knew he was in great demand, I said, but I asked if he'd do it as a favor for me. "They'll pay you $30,000," I added. He didn't think twice. "I'll do it under one condition," he said. "The $30,000 goes to that program for kids that is Christopher's memorial."
Christopher was one of my sons, and he idolized Tim. Christopher died in 1994, at age 17, from an initial attack of juvenile diabetes. I had left NBC by then, but within hours of Christopher's death the phone rang at home in Des Moines. It was Russert. I was in tears, and he seemed to be, too. He expressed his deep sorrow, and then he said:
"Look, if God had come to you 17 years ago and said, 'I'll make you a bargain. I'll give you a beautiful, wonderful, happy and healthy kid for 17 years, and then I'll take him away, you would have made that deal in a second.
He was right, of course, that was the deal. I just didn't know it.
As it turns out, there was a similar deal – the terms were 58 years – with Tim.
We just didn't know it."
But we – his family, his friends, his guests and his viewers, all of us so enriched by him – would have made it in a second."
Peter here. AMEN, and rest in peace, Tim Russert. You will be missed. So much.
And don't forget, there will be a very special MEET THE PRESS this Sunday morning at 10am EDT. On NBC.

P.S FINAL...Red Sox 9 Reds 0. Happy Dad's Day!


At 6/15/2008 10:31 AM, Blogger Fenway West said...

I don't know anyone who didn't like and respect Tim Russert, he will be missed greatly especially from political junkies like me who see politics as the fill-in when the Sox are not on.

At 6/15/2008 4:22 PM, Blogger Peter N said...

I, too. Thank you.

9-0 SOX...

At 6/17/2008 4:09 PM, Blogger Mainecatwoman said...

I'm a political junkie too and the thought of this election without Tim is breaking my heart!

RIP, Tim!

At 6/17/2008 4:27 PM, Blogger Peter N said...

Thanks Lisa...I remember SO well when Tim used to say, when showing some statistic or another about the Dem. race..."THIS IS BIG!" And he'd take out his white slate or his always neverending set of stats, and let us ALL understand. Boy, will I miss him.


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