Monday, June 16, 2008


Hitchens Remembers Russert

VF Daily: Christopher Hitchens Remembers Tim Russert: Online Only: "On the other hand, and especially with his own one-on-two interview program, The Tim Russert Show, he could be extremely generous and essentially get out of your way while eliciting your opinions. I most particularly remember him doing this for Newsweek’s Jon Meacham and myself, who had published competing books on the role of religion last year. Tim was much more than a “practicing” Catholic: he was a devout and highly serious one who attended church every day. It was very handsome of him, I thought, to offer a whole hour of more or less free publicity to one atheist and one Episcopalian. And he relished the discussion and the disagreements, on the set and off it, for their own sake."

For those that know me well, you know that I was eager to read or hear Christopher's take on Russert's death (still a strange phrase for such a lively man). I hadn't a doubt that Hitchens loved Russert for many of the same reasons that us, his viewers, did. I could also be sure that they knew one another well, and more than likely appreciated what the other brought to the collective American intellectual table. It's funny, even as I write that, the thought of Russert as an intellectual is a disjointed one. He clearly was an intellectual, but it seemed to me that he never fancied himself as such. He was much more interested in his friends and viewers knowing about his Buffalo home, Big Russ, and his faith than proving to all what he "knew".
Over the weekend, MSNBC both did tributes as well as played old interviews he did on "Big Russ and Me" and "Wisdom of our Fathers". In one interview led by Brokaw, he told a story from "Wisdom" about a 10-year-old boy walking with his father up to a Church. As they approach, Tim recounted, the father asked the son the time. The son, a bit baffled, answered the father and they stopped and watched a procession of people file into the Church for a funeral mass. Later, they watched the mourners file out of the Church, and the father asked, once again, for the time. The son obliged. The father said, "That person's life, as most, was reduced to 20 minutes." Russert went on saying that there are few lessons that so poignantly describe how important every action can be, and how they may have an impact on that twenty minutes.
Though he was only let in on that tale in the last few years, and even though I never met the man, I feel certain that he lived his life as if Big Russ had been the father in front of that Church. Another certainty...Russert's was a life that certainly cannot be summed up in 20 minutes.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Russert Remembered


Drudge's headline is perfect. Two days before Father's Day for the man who consistently reminded us of just what an impact our fathers have on us was the saddest of ironies. I bought three copies of Big Russ and Me, one for myself, one for my father, and one for my grandmother. I am not a big reader, not as much as I would like, but this was a cover-to-cover read for me. I felt like I was being educated on how to live a good life, to be a good person.
Not a religious Meet the Press viewer, I still watched pretty often. He really was one of the best interviewers on television. I think one of the things we all liked about him was that he was a lot like all of us. He was a normal guy who interviewed people in power in terms we could understand. He was rightly proud of his own ability to do that, and often gave credit for that approach to his father, Big Russ. In fact, he often gave credit for much of his accomplishment and particular wins to Big Russ and others.
I hope that his son, Luke, Big Russ, and his wife can take comfort in Tim's grand impact on the world far beyond politics. Through his books and his appearances, he made many of us better people.

Saturday, June 07, 2008


On McClellan, Past and Present

If you want to read a serious book about the intervention in Iraq, try War and Decision. - By Christopher Hitchens - Slate Magazine: "I used to watch this mooncalf blunder his way through press conferences and think, Exactly where do we find such men? For the job of swabbing out the White House stables, yes. But for any task involving the weighing of words? Hah! Now it seems that he realizes, and with a shock at that, that there was a certain amount of 'spin' or propaganda involved in his job description. Well, give the man a cigar. Beyond that, the book is effectively valueless to the anti-war camp since, as McClellan says of the president, 'I consider him a fundamentally decent person, and I do not believe he or his White House deliberately or consciously sought to deceive the American people.'"

And from this very blog:
"Putting a guy like Tony there is what should've happened after Ari left. There was never a good excuse for McClellan. With access to the whole country, he picked Scott to speak publicly for him. An outsider would wonder if there was no better candidates available. This shows much better taste.
Monday, November 15, 2004
A Request, Mr. President?
While you are making all of these changes to your cabinet, could you do me one favor? Could you please replace McClellan? Unlike Ari, Scott is boring. Maybe you want him to be so that the presidential briefing does not so often end up on the 11 o'clock news, but you couldn't have picked a blander briefer."

As usual, Hitchy says it better, but also as usual, I agree. In fact, going back to see my words on McClellan, I was shocked to find my words were not sharper and more venomous. I remember cursing the decision. I suppose I was trying to sound more diplomatic or professional. Not sure why.
I simply never understood why we would choose him to follow Ari, who I quite admired. This is, however, pay back for such a stupid choice. He was never smart enough for the job, and he is clearly not confident enough to be loyal to those that gave him the job he never deserved in the first place. This is not to say that a person should be loyal above all, if there is something of value to share. McClellan, however, does not really say anything. Interestingly, I saw someone trying to defend him (can't remember who) by saying that the publisher "talked him into" a negative piece, using the carrot of bigger sales. That is terribly sad that a man who was the spokesman for the leader of the free world could be "talked into" something so stupid and that his defenders had no better explanation. They could've simply said, "Scott does not have a mind of his own. Poor guy."

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