Meet the Press is often a big part of my weekly routine. I attend church on Sunday morning, then I come home. In the afternoon, I go to my computer and visit the Meet the Press web site. I click on the “Watch the Telecast” link, and I listen to the program while I blog or do my homework.
I love the Meet the Press music! It’s so dramatic. I wish someone sold the Meet the Press soundtrack! But I also enjoy Tim Russert’s narration of that week’s events. “Our issues this Sunday,” Russert said as he introduced the show with drama and flare.
You know what’s really weird? Usually, when famous people die, I watch Tim Russert talk about them on Meet the Press. He’d mention them in the introduction and at the tail end of the show. In many cases, he’d show a clip of that person’s appearance on Meet the Press. And so a part of me expects to hear him talk about his own death on tomorrow’s broadcast. “Our issues this Sunday…the unexpected death of a television journalist shocks the world,” he’d say in his dramatic introduction, as the music played. “Tim Russert…he was 58. We’ll be right back,” he’d solemnly say at the end, with a little smile. Tim Russert is such an big part of my reception of the news, that I can’t imagine getting my news without him.
He kind of grew on me over time, for I didn’t like him that much at first. I remember watching Pat Buchanan on Meet the Press, and Tim Russert was trying to grill him. “Pat will eat this cocky pinko liberal alive!” I thought. Over time, I saw that Russert grilled all sides, liberal and conservative. It was fun watching the game of cat and mouse, the match of wits, as Russert cornered his guests with really hard questions, and they tried their best to give some sort of answer. “Would I be able to think that quickly on my feet?” I thought, as I saw his guests dodge all sorts of bullets.
I had to laugh when Saturday Night Live made fun of Russert’s aggressive questioning of Hillary, or when Barack Obama in Audacity of Hope narrated how Russert in 2004 dug up an old Obama quote that Obama had completely forgotten about. Russert was always so intense on Meet the Press. On his own show, Tim Russert, however, he was much more relaxed, reflective, and conversational. He wasn’t out to grill people in that setting!
I first learned about his love for his family on Sean Hannity’s radio program. Tim Russert was a guest, and Sean was asking him about his best-selling and heart-warming book, Big Russ and Me. At that time, I didn’t care much for Russert, for I saw him as a part of the insidious liberal news media. But I was touched by his tender regard for his father and the traditional values that made America great.
As I watched some of the commemorations last night, I learned that Russert was also a man of faith. He was a devout Catholic and a good man. On NBC Nightly News, one woman told Brian Williams that Russert offered to pray for her family when he learned that her child was sick. According to her, that’s unheard of in the Washington culture! She also talked about how Russert always asked her about her child at Washington events and focused on the person he was talking to rather than looking around for someone more important. On Hannity and Colmes, Sean Hannity related that Russert wrote a $10,000 check for a charity that Hannity was promoting–a scholarship fund for children of American casualties in Iraq. “Don’t tell anyone about this,” Russert told Hannity.
I don’t think I saw Russert as a great man while he was alive, for I viewed him as someone who talked about great men. He was always the person who was telling the stories or commenting on current events. He was never the topic of the stories. But I can see after his death how great he really was. He was one of the most influential people in Washington, yet he was humble and down-to-earth. He didn’t put on any airs. His passions were politics and his family, not his own personal glory.
As I tried to absorb the unexpected shock last night, I thought about human mortality. Regardless of our station in life, we will all die someday. Death can even grab a person suddenly, as it did with Tim Russert. The only one who is eternal is God. That really puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? A lot of people like to put on airs, when they are really nothing in the grand scheme of things. They are decaying human beings who are born, live, and finally die. God is truly higher than we are, and he’s the only way we’ve got to grasp on to something truly lasting.
And, since life is like a breath, what is really important? Would I hold on to my grudges and resentments, if I realized how short life actually is? Tim Russert was a man of earthly accomplishment, yet he valued what is truly important: faith, family, and values.
And so I’ll miss Tim Russert, especially tomorrow, which is when I watch Meet the Press. I feel he’s irreplaceable.