Saturday, June 14, 2008

RIP Tim Russert

The host of "Meet the Press", Tim Russert, died suddenly yesterday of a massive heart attack while preparing for Sunday's show. My mother called to tell me, saying that it was "like losing another member of the family". I immediately turned on CNN to follow the story, and tracked down the memorial that had already been started on the Web. Sunday mornings are not going to be the same.

So why would I care about a journalist, an AMERICAN journalist, someone that I had never met? I've been pondering that myself, and here's what I've come up with.

  • I am a 3rd generation political junkie. When I was a child, if I wanted to have anything to say at the dinner table, I had to follow and understand politics. Interest turned into passion in high school, thanks to my Grade 12 History teacher, Mr. Delafrenier, who was willing to listen to other opinions (I had lots of opinions, most of them based on nothing at all) and encouraged critical thought. I have since completed an undergrad and graduate degree in Political Science, but my passion remained Canadian Politics.
  • The United States has a huge impact on Canadian policy, as much as I hate to acknowledge that, and never more so than with a seriously right wing Canadian government, and a seriously whacked out, er I mean right wing Republican president. Who the next president of the US will be will have a far-reaching impact on Canada and our lives, economy and social policies. v
  • The Democratic race for the nomination was more interesting than we've seen in years. My mother had been singing from Barrack Obama's score since she heard him speak at the LAST Democratic convention. I started out a Hillary Clinton supporter; it was hard to deny that estrogen bond, after all. However, the more I heard of Obama, the more I became a fan. To be honest, letting Bill Clinton loose in the White House with not enough to do made me nervous...we already know what happens when he's loose in the White House WITH things to do. I got sucked into the excitement of the primaries, and watched week after week as the results rolled in. My name is Lisa and I am a geek.
  • "Meet the Press" became my personal oasis in an often busy and noisy life with my 3 year old, 2 cats, husband and work-from-home-mom life. For an hour every Sunday, I (often) disappear to the basement and get my political junkie fix with thought-provoking, tough and honest interviews. Then I would phone my mother when the show was over, and we'd hash it some more before my life intervened and I went back to being mom/wife instead of Lisa MacColl, political junkie. That hour every week kept my brain functioning on other things that Disney movies and what to write about, and kept me in touch with events past the end of my nose. Some weeks, it was all that kept me going. Dramatic, perhaps, but accurate nonetheless.
I started watching "Meet the Press" sporadically last year, mainly so that I would be able to follow the conversation that I would have with my mom on Sunday mornings. She was a steadfast watcher, and I became one, to the point where we never talk to each other on Sundays until 10am, AFTER the show had finished. I quickly came to respect and admire Tim Russert's interview style. He was well prepared, and I quickly recognized the gleam in his eye as he was about to hoist stuffy politicians or aids on their own petard by quoting back words that they had said on a previous occasion. He was never afraid to ask the tough questions, but he had the gift of asking without skewering or being mean. Because he always maintained the high road, he was able to coax responses that otherwise might not have been forthcoming. I admired his style and his ability to be tough and professional at the same time. From a casual observer standpoint, his basic admiration and respect for the people in the political realm, whether frontline, backroom or journalist was always in evidence. He loved Washington, and politics and it was obvious that his job was the best in the world as far as he was concerned.

I will tune in tomorrow morning to join the millions who will be mourning his passing. The US general election is not going to be nearly as much fun without Tim Russert's observations. My prayers and thoughts go out to his family and colleagues. Rest in Peace, Mr. Russert. Thank you for educating me, entertaining me, and leaving me with things to ponder and discuss.

No comments: