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.

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