Monday, June 16, 2008

#410 Russert

#410 Russert

What Would Tim Say about all the fuss. He might say "I died. That's bad. I hope I rest in peace. Someone please take care of Big Russ. Thanks for putting me on every front page in America. Now, enough, already."

That would be fairly typical off-the-air Russert. On the air, he'd probably do what his colleagues did, an endless series of tributes, all of them deserved, all of them inadequate.

This was a guy who filled the room without trying. Think of what would have happened if he HAD tried. NBC's top guy in Washington died of a heart attack the other day. On the job at the time, as he was most of the time.

The political class feared him and the gentlemanly sword with which he severed many of their heads, but always from in front and never from behind. Nothing big, he'd say. Just doing his job -- a job he learned not in the law school from which he graduated, but on the back of the garbage truck where he worked for so many hot summer days. Big Russ, his father, had bigger things in mind for his boy. But all that's in Tim's book, and needs no recounting here.

Early political experience with Pat Moynihan and Mario Cuomo gave him an edge over the rest of the reporting pack. Most people who work as political operatives and journalists do the operative jobs when they can no longer get work in broadcasting or newspapering. Tim did it in reverse.

They went on and on about him on Friday the 13th, a fateful day, as it turned out. Brokaw, Williams, Couric, Schieffer, Olbermann; all the heavyweights who worked with him, for him and against him on NBC and the rival networks.

But they missed a few things. Like how as Washington bureau chief he kept first rate but aging correspondents on camera, a real TV no-no. Like how that law degree never got in his way. (Almost no one who watched him doing election coverage or hosting "Meet the Press" even knew he had one.) Like how he could show up at the "Today Show" newsroom in New York, for a morning segment and be back in Washington for a knowledgeable crosstalk on MSNBC a few hours later and Nightly News after that.

They say he revived the dieing genre of the Sunday morning talk fest. He'd tell you "nah, you're thinkig of Brinkley." He was not entirely right about that, and the ratings proved it.

A big guy. Wide. Too heavy. Worked too hard. Too long. Loved the political soap opera. Knew it was important. Told us why. Not a pretty boy.

But he didn't much like big fusses about mere mortals. Probably including himself.

You'll miss him. Even if you don't realize it.

(Editor's Note: Richards was a news writer on "Meet the Press" from 1992-2000.)


--A recent study says vinyl shower curtain liners emit toxic chemicals. A new worry: second hand toxic chemicals when someone else in your house takes a shower. Soon we'll get Surgeon General's warnings on the labels.

--Middle Easterners are buying a majority interest in New York's Chrysler Building. Not a bad idea. Gives them a chance to survey their second kingdom all at once.

--For once, Rush Limbaugh is right, although he didn't quite put it this way. The election is not about McCain vs. Obama. It's about how racist we are, or aren't.

I'm Wes Richards. My Opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(r)
(C)2008 WJR

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