Monday, 16 June 2008


My Guardian obituary of Tim Russert is in today's paper.

This wasn't commissioned until after I'd posted Saturday morning's quick reaction to Russert's death, and I wrote it Sunday.

It has been edited slightly: I liked his line, after testifying in the Libby trial, that it was easier throwing grenades than catching them, and I also gave him credit for recognising Ohio as key to the 2004 election. I had included a quote from Nicholas Lemann, describing how his book is not really about his dad, but about validating the likeable, just-folks, Russert 'brand'.

There was also a bit describing the apotheosis of the celebrity/inside problem, pointing out that the April Clinton-Obama debate, where Charles Gibson (celebrity chat show host) and George Stephanopoulos (ex political insider) took their imitation of the Russert method to near-parody in their embarrassing chase of the 'gotcha' moment through trivial question after question. It was a valid point, but for a piece on media, not for Russert's obit, and I'm glad it was lost. The lead bull isn't responsible for every word from the herd.

One thing I didn't write, but I can't help thinking, and the photo the Guardian used reinforced my thought, was that if you were going to hire an actor to play Russert, it might be WC Fields.
Or vice-versa.

Re-reading it, I don't think I emphasized quite enough just how much agenda-setting Meet The Press could do, and, especially in the sense that Russert's tenure on the programme virtually paralleled the presidencies of Clinton and this Bush, how pathetic, how trivial, how tragic, that agenda-setting was. But perhaps that would be speaking too much ill.

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