Tim so hard to 'miss' - Empty chair, full hearts on old show
By Senator Charles Schumer
The New York Post, 6/16/08
YESTERDAY, like every Sunday for the last 17 years, "Meet the Press" was must- see television. Only one thing was missing - the man who made the program a can't-miss. Instead, in tribute to Tim Russert, the moderator's chair sat empty.
It's impossible to get your arms around the loss of a man who was as trusted a voice and as permanent a presence in America's living rooms as Tim Russert.
The show played a montage of Russert clips over the years, documenting the politicians he humbled, the egos he flattened and the contradictions he exposed. But Tim never did it in a mean-spirited or "gotcha" way; he simply had a passion to cut through the political fog, smoke and blather to obtain the truth. But what is often forgotten was his great influence on New York politics.
When the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan offered Tim, then a political novice, a job, he had a chance to work for his idol. Many forget, but most believe, that Moynihan would not have won his first re-election but for Tim Russert.
Moynihan faced a formidable foe in Congressman Bruce Caputo, but Tim discovered that Caputo had exaggerated his role in Vietnam, ending any chance Caputo had for an upset.
What Tim had was a Western New York, blue-collar sensibility. He interviewed popes and presidents, but he forever remained the pride of Buffalo, the son of Big Russ and the product of his Catholic schooling.
Tim's devotion to his own family made him feel like a part of ours. He bragged on his son, Luke, and his book about his relationship with Big Russ reminded all of us what it meant to be a father.
Tim went to work for Gov. Mario Cuomo after his years with Moynihan. The first time Mario came to Washington as governor, he brought Tim with him, and it was awkward for Tom Downey and me (when we were both in the House of Representatives), since we had backed Ed Koch over Mario in the primary.
Tim decided, in his unique and kind way, that the way to bring us back in Mario's good graces was for Downey and me to play him and Mario in a two-on-two basketball game.
We loosened our ties, kicked off our shoes and played in our socks. We promised never to tell who won, but we all worked well together after that. Tim had all the ingredients to make a career out of politics if he wanted. But he found his calling in journalism.
Tim showed a newsman could also be a statesman. The city of Buffalo, the state of New York and the nation are proud to have been touched by him.