Saturday, June 14, 2008

Tim Russert

My apologies to the daily readers of the Kosher Computing blog, but I have been busy at Boy Scout camp for the past few days. I heard the news about Tim Russert, the NBC political correspondent, who unexpectedly passed away yesterday at the age of 58, over one of the parent's radios as they were taking their Scout home early. I was devastated. Russert was one of my most admired TV personalities and I believe he was light years ahead of most commentators. He had an unbelievably easy grasp on one of the most difficult beats to cover: Washington politics. He was an amiable and likeable fellow and I am pleased to report that I was privileged to see and hear him speak at a fundraiser for Cuyahoga Community College (commonly referrred to as "Tri-C") among my first duties as a staff reporter for the Cleveland Jewish News. Russert was a student at Jesuit school John Carroll University, the university that gave my township of University Heights its name. He picked up his law degree at Cleveland State University. So, it was only natural for a Clevleand area university to invite a former Clevelander to talk on the importance of education in that city. Russert reeled off joke after joke in warming up the crowd and he had an easy going manner with the audience. What was most apparent was his deep attachment to his father, whom he wrote so eloquently about in "Big Russ and Me" and his commitment to his Catholic religion. He loved sports almost as much as he loved politics. But it was in politics, as host of NBC's long-running "Meet the Press," where Russert really excelled. Even the Smithsonian decided that his famous slate with the words "Florida. Florida. Florida" from 2000 needed to be enshrined within its hallowed halls. His interviews of famous politicos were as incisive and hard-hitting as anyone could deliver. He could hit a subject with a question head-on and then, when least expected, come back with a follow up that would yield jucier material. When Senators, Representatives and Cabinet members sat before him and the cameras, they had to prepare well in advance and even then many were shaking in their boots knowing a Tim Russert interview was undeniably tough. What a loss for NBC. What a pity for broadcasting. The nation has lost one of its favorite sons and a figure who will be sorely missed when this historic November presidential race is finally played out.

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