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Remembering Russert

The special edition of "Meet the Press" was dedicated to the life of Tim Russert. Hosted by Tom Brokaw, the panel of Russert's friends and colleagues included Dem strategist James Carville, GOP strategist Mary Matalin, MSNBC's Mike Barnicle, "Meet the Press" EP Betsy Fischer, Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, PBS' Gwen Ifill and ex-NBC corr./CA First Lady Maria Shriver.

Sunday Snapshot


Brokaw, opening the show: "'Our issues this Sunday.' Tim Russert started every edition of 'Meet the Press' with those four words, and those were the words that he was preparing to record when he collapsed and died on Friday at these NBC studios in Washington. Now, his moderator's chair is empty, his voice has been stilled and our issue this sad Sunday morning is remembering and honoring our colleague and our friend with some of the men and women who worked with him and appeared here on 'Meet the Press,' who knew him best and loved him most."

Kearns Goodwin: "In this broadcast world, what these recordings will show people years from now is not just the questions he asked, not even just the answers he got, but which people were able to acknowledge errors, which people ruffled under his questions, which ones could share a laugh. You'll get the temperament of these people. They're going to come alive."

Shriver: "I think it's so poignant that we're talking about Tim on Father's Day, because he was a father to so many of us, the whole bureau there and all the young journalists."


Carville: "I think what Tim, I mean, more than anything didn't like is a candidate who wasn't prepared. ... I think that the biggest insult to him was that someone would come on here and wasn't prepared for the show, didn't take his show seriously. ... It was a very hard show, but you could prepare for it because it was very fair. Always very fair."

Matalin: "This is where you separated the men from the boys, right? You weren't a candidate till you came on this show."

Fischer: "There was nobody more prepared than Tim Russert himself when people would come on this show. ... He never once sat in that chair unprepared. He would prepare for a three-hour show. ... The way he would structure the questions was very lawyerly. He always knew how a candidate was going to respond."

Barnicle: "He loved this program. He loved it as a vehicle, an educational vehicle for everyone out there. ... We will all continue, but it will just never, ever be the same; although I will hear his laugh forever. ... He was a prosecutor on behalf of the public good here. He was going to get to the news, he was going to get to the story, he was going to get to the truth. And he knew how to do it skillfully and fairly, and never condescendingly."


Ifill: "This studio, I thought of it as the 'church of Tim.' He was also the great uber priest. I would actually get a pass from my own pastor not to go to church on Sundays if I was going to be on 'Meet the Press.'"

Carville: "The question I'm most often asked about Tim is, is he as really a good guy as he looks like? And the truth is, he was a better guy. He was really a better guy than even you think he was. And the reason he was is because he had so much of a little boy in him."

Brokaw: "We don't have a big tradition in this country of people being in politics then in journalism, or going from journalism back into politics. But Tim really dropped that firewall because he did it with such integrity."

Kearns Goodwin: "Eleanor Roosevelt once said about ... Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, that the best men still have a lot of the little boy left in them. And that was what Tim had. I once said to him, 'Why don't you run for office?' because he had such a personality. ... But he said, 'No, I have found my vocation. I love this thing.' I mean, journalism was to him the highest profession. He set the standard. You know, the old days you had Edward R. Murrow and you had Walter Cronkite, people of authority who would look out at the television screen. But what Tim did was to make that transition to the world of relationship talking. That's what so much television is now, talking."

Matalin: "He genuinely liked politicians. He respected politicians. He knew that they got blamed for everything, got credit for nothing. He knew how much they meant. He never treated them with the cynicism that attends some of these interviews. So they had a place to be loved. He understood who they were. They were a combination, as was he, of idealism and realism, so if you messed up on this show, it was nobody's fault but your own."

Barnicle: "His life was so all-encompassing, with his family at the top of the tier. And Tim loved politics and loved politicians, and he loved baseball and football and basketball, because he could summon up winners and losers, and a score at the end of the game, you know, whether it was election night or at the end of a Yankee/Red Sox doubleheader."

More Barnicle: "1977, he goes to work for Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who he idolized in the United States Senate. And Tim arrives and is surrounded by charter members of a Mensa society -- Yale Law, Harvard Law. And Tim is from Buffalo, and he was always from Buffalo. And Daniel Patrick Moynihan sensed it in him, and they were having a conversation about, you know, 'Don't worry, you're not going to be intimidated by these Mensa members who you're working with.' ... Pat Moynihan told Tim that day ... 'What they know, Tim, you can learn. But what you know, they can never learn.' And there was so much of that in Tim each and every day that he brought to this program and this country."

Kearns Goodwin: "A couple weeks ago when Teddy Kennedy was diagnosed with his brain tumor, we were talking about the fact that Rose Kennedy had once said to me that, if her children who died young, could come back, meaning Joe Jr. and Jack and Bobby, they would still choose the lives they've been given to lead even though they had shortness of years because they had such productivity, such achievement. And Tim said to me, you know, 'I would feel that way, too. If I didn't have any more right now, I've had the life that I've wanted to lead, except that I want to see Luke grow up. I want to see him have a child. I want to have him be a father.' ... He led a full life. He just wasn't give the length of years that he deserved."

Barnicle: "Tim, you know, may have been a cardinal or a pope. He was very Catholic in the big C definition of the faith, and he was a Jesuit-educated Catholic. And he brought to this table, to this form, to his life, elements of what we used to call working priests, Jesuits and Marian Oles, dealing with people who were damaged, the most vulnerable among us. That's what he brought to his life, this program, each and every day. He recognized the flaws in human beings."

Kearns Goodwin: "Old Machiavelli used to say, 'It's better to be feared than loved,' if you're a political figure, if you want power. And the incredible thing was, he was feared by the people who came on here because they didn't want to screw up, but on the other hand he was loved. I mean, he managed to do both things, which was so rare, to have authority and love."

Ifill: "The real reason I got my job at NBC was because I had lived for four formative years in Buffalo, New York."

Kearns Goodwin, on popping out of a cake on Russert's 50th birthday: "I had to sing. You know how Marilyn Monroe sung, 'Happy birthday, Mr. President.' So I had to sing, 'Happy birthday, Mr. Moderator.' Oh, God, it was the most embarrassing moment."

Brokaw: "Just as I believe this long primary season's made all the candidates better, I think Tim made the candidates better."

Matalin: "We talk about his ambition and his friendships and his loyalty. He was ambitious for his friends. ... He tried to help everybody. He wanted everybody to do their best. ... He put them in positions to succeed, starting with the interns."

Fischer: "He always said the best exercise for the human heart was to bend down and pick someone else up. And he not only picked us up, but he held us up every week as the backbone of the show."

Brokaw: "There's a word that is used so often these days as a test for national character in politics or in culture or whatever, and the word is authenticity. And our friend was as authentic as any human being I've ever met" (NBC, 6/15).


Tributes to Russert came in from every network.

ABC's Stephanopoulos: "It was a challenge to sit across that table from Tim. Everyone who did it knows that. It got to the point where you hadn't really made it in Washington until you'd endured one of his signature depositions. It was a challenge to compete with Tim, too, because he never let up. That meant we couldn't either. He made everyone around him work harder and smarter. Tim loved everything about politics and journalism. He loved the game. He loved the gossip, too. Making the powerful squirm was his duty, but he tried to do it almost always with a smile" ("This Week," 6/15).

CBS' Schieffer: "Tim and I butted heads for 18 years on Sunday mornings, and yet somehow along the way we also became friends. Tim did it the old-fashioned way. He didn't need a squadron of producers and aides to get him briefed up for big interviews. He just kept up with things on a day-to-day and hour-to-hour basis, and then he did his homework. ... Tim was nothing fancy, no bells or whistles. He just sat them down and asked them questions, but they were always good questions. I think what made him so good was he realized that news programs are about the news; they're not about the newscasters. I think that's why he got so much news himself" ("Face the Nation," 6/15).

CNN's Blitzer: "Tim Russert was far more than a competitor, he was my friend. Together we had the opportunity to meet the pope, enjoyed Washington Wizards basketball games and talked about our families. Sunday mornings will not be the same without him" ("Late Edition," 6/15).

Fox's Wallace: "Before the terrible events Friday, I never would have said it in public, but Tim Russert was the king of Washington reporters. He reinvented Sunday morning talk shows, and he had an authority and insight in covering politics that the rest of us could only aspire to" ("Fox News Sunday," 6/15).

John Edwards: "It's a great loss for America. You know, he was the yardstick by which political journalists were measured. And beyond that, you know, he was extraordinarily good at what he did. Beyond that, he was just a wonderful human being. I mean, I saw in my own family his generosity and his warmth and the way and the respect and dignity with which he treated people. And I think because of the way he grew up, because of his dad, because of his family values, he sort of in many ways embodies what America is supposed to be about. And I think it's a tremendous loss for the country" ("This Week," ABC, 6/15).

House Min. Leader John Boehner (R-OH): "He was a tough journalist and clearly the preeminent political journalist in Washington. But Tim and I had a very special relationship. We kind of grew up in the same kind of blue collar neighborhoods. He in Buffalo, I here in Cincinnati. My dad owns a tavern. We both went to Jesuit schools. And, you know, growing up Catholic together. And so after he wrote his book about "Big Russ & Me," I had a chance to talk to Tim about his experiences growing up with his father, my experiences growing up with my father and I can tell that you the two of us shed a tear together one day. He was a great human being. Someone who clearly loved his family and did a marvelous job covering those of us in politics. But let me tell you, he was a tough, well-prepared interviewer" ("Late Edition," CNN, 6/15).

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), on appearing on "Meet the Press": "It was always an experience. He was a very, very tough cross-examiner. I think if Tim had decided to be a lawyer, he would have been at the top of his game. But really a unique journalist, and to go at 58 was just quite a shock. It leaves a big void in the journalist political field. We'll all miss Tim very much, no doubt about that" ("Late Edition," CNN, 6/15).

Newt Gingrich: "He had an amazing ability to reach out to people, and I just think, particularly on this Father's Day, that the loss to that family is great, and I would hope that every American would take a moment to include them in their prayers, because he was so close to his dad and so close to his son" ("Face the Nation," CBS, 6/15).

CBS' Reid: "I spent 11 years at NBC, and for most of that time, Tim was my boss. He was one of the best bosses anyone could ever hope for. His passion for news and especially politics was infectious, and I caught the bug. But he was also passionate about his family, and on this Father's Day, we at 'Face the Nation' send our condolences to Tim's father, Big Russ, his son Luke and his wife Maureen. We'd also like to extend our heartfelt sympathies to our good friends and colleagues at 'Meet the Press'" ("Face the Nation," 6/15).


Issues still had to be discussed, and at the top of the list was Veepstakes.

LA Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) was on "Face the Nation."

Jindal, asked if he would turn down the VP spot: "The speculation is flattering. I've talked to the senator several times. We've never talked about the topic. The reality is, I've got the job that I want. ... I'm certainly supporting Senator McCain, will do whatever I can to help him get elected, but I'm focused on being governor of Louisiana."

Jindal, on some GOPers calling him the GOP Barack Obama: "I think Senator Obama is an incredibly gifted speaker. I don't think I should be included in that same short list, and I mean that as a sincere compliment. I don't agree with all of his ideas, but I think he brings an earnestness, I think he's genuine. I think he speaks better than any elected official I've heard in several, several years, maybe going back to President Reagan" (CBS, 6/15).

Newt Gingrich, asked if he would recommend to McCain that he pick Jindal as VP: "Absolutely. I think Governor Jindal would be far and away the best candidate for vice president in the country. I think he is a future presidential candidate. I think he has enormous capacity to keep growing. ... He's just an all-around talented human being. ... Bobby Jindal at 37 is fully as prepared to be commander in chief as Senator Obama. ... You could argue that in fact Jindal's experience in the executive branch and in the legislative branch is greater than Senator Obama's experience" ("Face the Nation," CBS, 6/15).

John Edwards appeared on "This Week."

ABC's Stephanopoulos: "I guess you were traveling in Spain last week, and you reportedly told the Spanish newspaper El Mundo that you had ruled out being Barack Obama's running mate, saying 'I won't do it again.' Did you intend that to be a Shermanesque statement?"

Edwards: "No, I intended it to say that this is not a thing that I'm seeking. I think Senator Obama, first of all, has earned the right to make this decision for himself. I think he has enormous choices available to him, really great choices available to him. And I think he'll go through this process in a thoughtful, orderly way, and he'll decide who he wants to be his running mate."

Stephanopoulos: "And you haven't ruled it out, though, completely, even though it's his decision?"

Edwards: "Well, I'd take anything he asked me to think about seriously, but obviously this is something I've done and it's not a job that I'm seeking" (ABC, 6/15).

AZ Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) was on "Late Edition."

Napolitano, on being mentioned as a possible Obama running mate: "Well, that's very flattering, but I have a job that I like a lot. And my focus is on getting Barack Obama elected president" (CNN, 6/15).

Fred Thompson was on "This Week," and Stephanopoulos played old footage of a McCain event in TN.

Stephanopoulos: "Your name came up at a John McCain event down in Tennessee a few weeks ago. Take a look."

Unknown person: "Senator McCain, have you chosen your vice president, your running mate? ... My suggestion is to you our good friend, Fred Thompson."

McCain: "I kind of got the impression if he were the candidate, I wouldn't have to spend a lot of time in Tennessee."

Stephanopoulos: "There's a big smile from Senator McCain. Are you interested?"

Thompson: "I want to thank my mother for that endorsement I got there. John wasn't that generous with me when I was running against him, you know, but I appreciate his comments, too. No, I'm not interested."

Stephanopoulos: "And you will not accept?"

Thompson: "No. I think it's presumptuous. ... It's presumptuous for a person to turn down things that haven't been offered to them and I don't think will be offered. And it's not something that I want. So I'll just leave it at that" (ABC, 6/15).

And Karl Rove was on "Fox News Sunday" to talk about the Dem and GOP VP spots.

Rove, on the GOP VP short list: "What I tried to do here is choose types of people. ... In Mitt Romney, you've got the defeated primary opponent. In Pawlenty, you've got ... a blue state Republican. In Charlie Crist, you've got a strong advocate and ally from the primary process. And then in Joe Lieberman, you've got the choice way out of left field -- you know, the real excitement."

More Rove: "I'd pick Romney. Romney is already vetted by the media, strong executive experience both in business and in government, has an interesting story to tell with the saving the U.S. Olympics, and also helps McCain deal with the economy, because he can speak with the economy with a fluency that McCain doesn't have. ... On the downside, he's been a little uneven in his performance. There is -- and particularly in sort of evangelical and Baptist communities -- a problem with his Mormonism."

Rove, on the front runner for the Dem VP: "I'd say Biden. But look. I think the Democrat field of vice presidential candidates is far more opaque than the Republican side. ... When you make a decision about vice president, you've got to make one of two decisions -- who's going to help me politically or who's going to help me govern. The mix between the two -- how much of my decision is based on how much they can do for me politically, and how much has to do with the chemistry and their background and their abilities that I think will help complement me in governing -- these are intensely personal" (6/15).


The "This Week" roundtable discussed Russert.

Ex-Pentagon spokesperson Torie Clarke: "It's late 2001, I was working at the Pentagon for Rumsfeld. And since 9/11, every single day ... everybody was doing somebody with the media. ... I finally decide Rumsfeld does not need to be on the Sunday shows the next day. And Tim Russert calls me ... to start berating me. He started Friday night. And he kept on the phone again Saturday. ... This goes on throughout the day. ... Finally I end the conversation by saying 'Tim, this is why you're so successful'" (ABC, 6/15).

The "Fox News Sunday" roundtable discussed SCOTUS' Gitmo decision and Russert.

NPR's Liasson: "He's absolutely irreplaceable. ... One of the things that was his hallmark, that he did better than anyone, is he did this incredibly close analysis of the politician's own words and he married that with a real in-depth knowledge of policy, and he grilled them like nobody else. ... A poor performance with Russert was a disaster. On the other hand, not showing up, not being willing to go in for an interview with him, showed that you weren't in the big leagues" (6/15).

The "Late Edition" roundtable discussed WH '08 and Russert.

CNN's Schneider, on Russert: "He did a wicked imitation of Senator Moynihan, I've got to tell you. Sometimes when he called, I couldn't tell the difference between the two of them. But he was someone who maybe a little bit self-conscious about the fact that he didn't go to an elite Ivy League school. That's one of the reasons why he was loved here in Washington. He was at the pinnacle of the Washington establishment, but he always behaved like a big kid who was just excited to be here" (CNN, 6/15).

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