In death, Tim Russert did on Wednesday what no living journalist has accomplished this campaign season: he got Barack Obama and John McCain to sit together and talk, quietly.
Specifically, it was Mr. Russert’s son, Luke, 22, who got the presumptive Democratic and Republican nominees together. He requested that they sit next to each other at his fatherâ€™s funeral at Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown. Then, in remarks from the pulpit, he exhorted them and other politicians to “engage in spirited debate but disavow the low tactics that distract Americans from the most important issues facing our country.” At the end of the service, the two candidates embraced.
NBC News president Steve Capus will hire “numerous people” to replace Tim Russert, he said tonight.
Russert, who died suddenly Friday from a heart attack at age 58, served so many roles at the network that he can’t possibly be replaced by one individual, Capus said.
“You’re talking about somebody who was the political compass inside the news division,” Capus said from a train, returning to New York from Russert’s funeral and memorial in Washington.
Russert from the start also was an extraordinary source for me.
The careful preparation that became his journalistic trademark was obvious in our conversations, when he always had something for my column — most of it about Moynihan’s adversaries. He was superb in “oppo” — research about the opposition. That skill propelled him to the top of television interviewers.
Early in 1982, over drinks in a Manhattan restaurant, Tim pulled from his briefcase accurate derogatory information about Republican Rep. Bruce Caputo, who was planning to run against Moynihan. That finished Caputo.
Tim and I disagreed on tax policy and other issues, but we never debated over the phone. Instead, we exchanged political information, and I usually was the recipient. He supplied for use in my column news tidbits he could not use. During my half century of journalism, he was the only colleague who was a source.