Timothy John Russert Jr., 1950 – 2008

Tim Russert

It is a day of mourning in the Gitell household over the sudden death of Tim Russert. My wife and I watched his show together since the early days of our relationship. In fact, the rabbi at our wedding joked that we should have had the “Meet the Press” theme accompany our walk down the aisle.

Russert, a former aide to Mario Cuomo and Senator Moynihan, existed at the top of two worlds — politics and journalism, helping him get beyond the talking points when interviewing politicians.

It’s hard to envision a political landscape, let alone Sunday mornings, without Tim Russert. As long as I’ve been involved with politics, Russert and his show, “Meet the Press,” have been a key part of the presidential election process. Prior to the primary and caucus season lie the money and media primaries. Surviving “Meet the Press” was the most important part of the media primary. And a bad performance could and would destroy a candidacy.

Given the resources that television networks are putting into politics these days, I can’t see how a new Russert will emerge. The new model seems to be a partisan/snarky talking head, such as Keith Olbermann. Olbermann presided respectfully over last night’s MSNBC proceedings. But he lacks Russert’s gravitas and deep political foundation.

Finally, Russert’s death puts the following paragraph from Mark Leibovich’s profile of NBC-colleague Chris Matthews into a different and somber perspective (the bit about Russert’s exercise regime): “Tim — as in Russert, the inquisitive jackhammer host of ‘Meet the Press’ — is a particular obsession of Matthews’s. Matthews craves Russert’s approval like that of an older brother. He is often solicitous. On the morning of the Cleveland debate, Matthews was standing in the lobby of the Ritz when Russert walked through, straight from a workout, wearing a sweat-drenched Buffalo Bills sweatshirt, long shorts and black rubber-soled shoes with tube socks. ‘Here he is; here he is, the man,’ Matthews said to Russert, who smiled and chatted for a few minutes before returning to his room. (An MSNBC spokesman, Jeremy Gaines, tried, after the fact, to declare Russert’s outfit ‘off the record.’)

Our prayers and best wishes go out to Russert’s wife Maureen Orth and his son Luke.


One Response to “Timothy John Russert Jr., 1950 – 2008”

  1. PS Says:

    The tragically premature end of an era, Tim’s passing requires the reconceptualization of my Sunday, and that of my peers. What is Sunday without MTP? What is Sunday now? Only Ted Koppel’s departure from Nightline has had a similar effect on my media landscape. Mr. Koppel…where are you?

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