Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert, Dead at 58

WASHINGTON – It was a measure of the degree to which Tim Russert was respected in the journalistic world that he was the first broadcaster elected to membership in Washington’s oldest journalistic organization, the Gridiron Club, an honor long restricted to print journalists.

And it was especially noteworthy in view of the fact that Tim had started out in politics, working for two prominent New York Democrats, Gov. Mario Cuomo and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Many of those who make that move remain highly suspect to those of us who have always felt that there should be a sharp line between the two. But a quarter-century after he made the switch, Tim was universally regarded as someone who could be counted on to treat purveyors of all viewpoints with equal respect and fairness.

And equal toughness; Tim was no shrinking violet. He was assertive, pugnacious and direct. He had a wide-ranging and inquisitive mind, mastering subjects from politics to sports. And he always did his homework.

He worked harder than any ambitious rookie. He was a familiar figure at major political events, and he never hesitated to take time to go to one more campaign event.

He was sometimes controversial; just weeks ago, there were complaints from Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign when he proclaimed the Democratic race over after the Indiana and North Carolina primaries. But he was essentially correct. After that, only something very unexpected could have changed the fact of Barack Obama’s nomination.

Many of my dealings with Tim were through my activities in various press organizations. He was always supportive of his fellow Washington bureau chiefs, whether we were trying to prevent campaigns from over-charging us for campaign travel or attempting to open up access to newsmakers.

When I tried to get Jay Leno to perform at the White House Correspondents Association dinner, he immediately agreed to invite the comedian to appear on Meet the Press.

When the Gridiron Club decided to broaden its ranks to include broadcast journalists in 2004, he was an enthusiastic recruit. In fact, even before the rules were changed, he appeared at our dinner one year in a number spoofing the failures of television anchormen on election night in 2000.

Though his intensive work schedule complicated his ability to attend rehearsals, he was always willing to participate. He was able to avoid appearing as an animal, a traditional costume for new members. Instead, he came on stage wearing a blonde wig.

We’ll miss him, but not as much as his family, his colleagues at NBC News and the entire political community. - From

I didn't watch him or know much about him, but my mom always watched "Meet The Press." To be honest he just seems like another corporate shill, but of course it is a tragedy when any life is lost.

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