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Russert's death a tragic loss

Out of My Head

Posted: June 22, 2008 6:04 p.m.
Updated: August 23, 2008 5:02 a.m.
Tim Russert's sudden cardiac demise is tragic on many levels.

He'll never experience another Christmas, tailgate party, Buffalo Bills game, or Springsteen concert alongside his adored son Luke.

He and his talented writer-wife Maureen will never share another cerebral tete-a-tete, proud parental moment, hand-holding stroll in Rome, or sweet, familiar goodnight kiss.

They'll never revel at one of their son's post-college career achievements, or laughingly pluck those first gray hairs from their "little boy's" head.

Neither will he see their child eventually have a family of his own. Nor discover the joy of becoming Grandpa Tim, the squirrel-cheeked, wild-eyed pushover.

Then there's Big Russ, Tim's revered, former garbage collector, forever down-to-earth octogenarian dad. When it's his time to go, Tim won't be there to gently soften that exit.

And as for Meet the Press, the Jesuit-trained attorney-turned political-journalist's 17-year NBC news gig: Fade out for that show's adroit and ever-prepared interviewer, the credible truth surgeon who so precisely extracted the fat from the sinew, the spin from reality, the BS from the politician - and always doing it with class and integrity.

The NBC News Washington Bureau Chief, Tim will not witness the outcome of November's presidential election - something he looked forward to with pinch-me enthusiasm and comprehensive intrigue (the latter being two qualities that also defined this fellow).

Yes, there is much Tim Russert will miss out on now that he has left us too soon.

There's also much about him that we will miss.

With his untimely death, we too got robbed. For while he leaves behind a loving family, a huge, adoring nest of colleagues and friends, and a grateful throng of younger journalists he nurtured and mentored, he also leaves a nation of fond strangers - folks who never knew him but knew he was one of the finest, most trusted political journalists ever to grace the media, as well as a man of integrity and a sweetheart of a family guy.

Russert worked hard, played hard, prayed hard, and never lost sight of who he was.

He knew where he came from and what meant the most to him. A proud, loyal Catholic and Democrat, he never let his personal views interfere with a political story or interview.

If a politician fell down as a result of a Russert-delivered Meet the Press dialogue, it was from falling on his own sword: Tim merely provided the solid questions that led to the telling answers.

The boy from Buffalo did his homework, and let others fill in the blanks.

Politicians from both sides of the fence now mourn his death, and agree on what a truly fair and balanced political journalist Tim Russert was - unlike those who call themselves such but really aren't.

Russert put our politicians' feet to the fire without lighting a match.

Intelligent words were his weapons of mass instruction.

Holding politicians accountable and providing accurate public information was his professional mission. He did it with a lust for the truth and a strong moral compass, this at a time when our country desperately needs government transparency and veracity more than ever.

The last eight years of the Bush Administration have been disastrous for America. From sea to shining sea, many citizens have become numb by the frustration and apathy created by this White House.

Russert helped shake and wake us from that fugue.

Some Americans now grumble that news coverage of Russert's death and memorial has been excessive.

"It's not like he was a president, or a politician," one blogger recently wrote.

True. And probably quite unfortunate for the masses, he wasn't a president or politician.

And yes, there has been considerable TV, radio and Internet attention recently given to his death and memorable life.

As far as presidents and fitting memorials go, many of us know what it feels like when a great commander-in-chief dies and a country weeps together.

That heartrending vision was sealed in our minds in 1963. At the time, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy had been assassinated and Americans shared a profound communal sadness. For many of us, some of that same kick-in-the-gut grief has been poignantly revisited since Russert's shocking death.

He will miss much, as will many millions who survive him. We know what's been lost here.

As the woe of his passing slowly eases, we will continue to celebrate what has been gained by his time on earth.

Thank you, Mr. Russert, for lighting a candle that will burn brightly for years. Its brilliance should stand as a character template for the masses.

Of course, that lot includes journalists - from powerful Beltway reporters to hometown community volunteers.

Diana Sevanian is a writer and Santa Clarita resident. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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