Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert Dead

Underscored the Jesuit influence within the U.S. mass media


Timothy John Russert, Jr. (May 7, 1950June 13, 2008)[1] was an American journalist who hosted NBC's Meet the Press. He was NBC News' Washington Bureau Chief and hosted a weekly interview program on MSNBC Tim Russert. He was a frequent correspondent and guest on NBC's The Today Show and Hardball. He co-hosted the network's presidential Election Night coverage and presented the polling results of the NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey on the NBC Nightly News. Russert died from a sudden heart attack on June 13, 2008.[2]

Early life

Born in Buffalo, New York to Irish American Catholic parents, he received a Jesuit education.[3] Russert was an alum of Canisius High School in Buffalo, New York and a graduate of John Carroll University and Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University. Russert admitted on Meet the Press that, during the Vietnam war, he went to Woodstock "in a Buffalo Bills jersey with a case of beer." Russert was admitted to the bar in New York and the District of Columbia. He served as counselor in New York Governor Mario Cuomo's office in Albany in 1983 to 1984 and was chief of staff to Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan from 1977 to 1982. An avid fan of the American Football team the Buffalo Bills, Russert usually closed Sunday broadcasts during the football season with some type of pro-Bills comment. He had also ended his show by mentioning the successes of Boston College football, baseball, and hockey.


Russert graduated from law school and worked on New York Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan's Senatorial campaign in 1976. He later worked on New York Democrat Mario Cuomo's gubernatorial campaign in 1982. Russert was hired by NBC at their Washington Bureau in 1984. He became Washington Bureau Chief four years later.[4]

Russert calculated possible United States Electoral College outcomes on a marker board on the air during NBC's coverage of the 2000 U.S. presidential election. Four years later, Russert again accurately predict the final battleground of the presidential elections: "Ohio, Ohio, Ohio." He often moderated political debates.

On MSNBC's show Tucker, Russert predicted the battleground states of the 2008 presidential election would be New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Nevada, saying "If Democrats can win three of those four, they can lose Ohio and Florida, and win the presidency."[5]

The marker board was a recurring prop used by Russert during NBC election night broadcasts.


Tim Russert - those two words say a great deal about Canisius High School. On May 10, 2004, Mr. Russert will publish his warm memoir, Big Russ & Me - Father and Son: Lessons of Life. The website for the book describes it as follows:

Over the last two decades, Tim Russert has become one of the most trusted and admired figures in American television journalism. Throughout his career he has spent time with presidents and popes, world leaders and newsmakers, celebrities and sports heroes, but one person stands out from the rest in terms of his strength of character, modest grace, and simple decency—Russert’s dad, Big Russ.

Big Russ & Me movingly and vividly portrays Buffalo, the Catholic Church, and Jesuit education with an accuracy and subtlety I have not seen elsewhere. Mr. Russert, a 1968 graduate of Canisius High School, devotes to his alma mater two chapters, “Canisius High School” and “Discipline.” Tim paints a compelling picture of the school and the experiences in Jesuit high schools everywhere during that era. Father Alvin Hufnagel, Fathers James and Frank Redmond, the Acrions, and many other familiar names and situations are brought to life with Tim’s fascinating recollections. Father John Sturm was the person who influenced him “more than any other at Canisius High School.” Read the book to find out why!

In concluding his chapter on “Discipline,” Tim Russert states: “There’s a lot in a name. Canisius High School is still there, and it enjoys an excellent reputation.” These words are a wonderful endorsement of Canisius, and they come from a man with a lot in his name. Mr. Russert explains, “I have learned so much from Big Russ, and I feel so grateful to him, that I wanted to write a book about the two of us, and also about the other important teachers in my life.” I encourage you to read his story and reflect on what can only be called the timelessness of Canisius High School.

Big Russ & Me: Father and Son may be ordered by visiting our website,, and clicking on the link “To order Big Russ & Me,” which will take you to the website for the book. It is available in hardcover, audio cassette, and audio CD. Buffalo Bills fans, former and current Buffalonians, and all people who appreciate a highly accomplished, admirable and unpretentious man’s story will quickly read, reread, and highly recommend this book

The Big Russ & Me website says: “As Tim Russert celebrates the indelible connection between fathers and sons, readers everywhere will laugh, cry, and identify with the lessons of life taught by the indomitable Big Russ.” Tim also celebrates the indelible Canisius High School connection that we all have in common.

May God continue to bless that indelible Canisius High School connection.

Sincerely in the Lord,

James P. Higgins, S.J. ‘72

GW Bush, described as the 1st Roman Catholic President of the U.S., praised Russert:

President Bush, informed of Russert's death while at dinner in Paris, swiftly issued a statement of condolence that praised the NBC newsman as "an institution in both news and politics for more than two decades. Tim was a tough and hardworking newsman. He was always well-informed and thorough in his interviews. And he was as gregarious off the set as he was prepared on it."

Here is something about Tim Russert at one particular eating event with GW Bush

Russert Drags Up, Sings Joke Song About Torture

Raw Story | March 14 2006

The annual 121st dinner of the Gridiron Club, a group of senior hill reporters, featured celebrities, lawmakers, The Marine Corps band, send-ups of the Vice President by Barack Obama and President Bush, and some peculiar stage routines by well-known reporters, The Washington Post reports.

Helen Thomas, as a Scarlett O'Hara/Hillary Clinton cross, sang a song that compared the White House to a plantation, all decked out in green curtains (complete with Carol Burnett curtain rod). Barack Obama joked that he was nervous to stand so close to the Vice President, in the presence of alcohol. But the most memorable performers of the evening (for better or worse) were Tim Russert and President Bush.

Excerpts from the Post's recap follow:

Tim Russert, making his first appearance as a new member, decked out in a blue dress and a shiny blond wig as one of the cable news bunnies. But there were also some true clunkers. Singing about torture, subbing "rendition" for "tradition" and borrowing the "Fiddler on the Roof" song was not funny at all. The chumminess of the politicos and the press corps can be cloying.

And, on President Bush's routine:

"Dick, I've got an approval rating of 38 percent and you shoot the only trial lawyer in the country who likes me."

"You know there are all these conspiracy theories that Dick runs the country . . . or Karl [Rove] runs the country. Why aren't there any conspiracy theories that I run the country? Really ticks me off. The truth is that I do run the country . . . but Dick runs me and Lynne runs Dick. So actually Lynne runs the country. And Lynne, I think you're doin' a heckuva job. Although I have to say you dropped the ball big time on that Dubai deal."

And: "By the way, when Dick first heard my approval rating was 38 percent, he said, 'What's your secret?' "

And from NBC:

Statement from Jeff Zucker, president and CEO of NBC Universal:

“We are heartbroken at the sudden passing of Tim Russert. We have lost a beloved member of our NBC Universal family and the news world has lost one of its finest. The enormity of this loss cannot be overstated. More than a journalist, Tim was a remarkable family man. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Maureen, their son, Luke, and Tim’s entire extended family.”

And from that same article:

Aside from his on-air responsibilities, Russert was a senior vice president and head of NBC’s overall Washington operations.

He was “one of the premier political journalists and analysts of his time,” Tom Brokaw, the former longtime anchor of “NBC Nightly News,” said in announcing Russert’s death. “This news division will not be the same without his strong, clear voice.”

Steve Capus, president of NBC News, called Russert’s death “a loss for the entire nation.”

Earlier this year, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Thomas Richards/Spiritually Smart Page on Tim Russert

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