Tim Russert died five years ago today.
I didn’t know Tim well — I had been on “Meet the Press” twice and done his cable show with Chuck Todd a few times. (For a tribute to Tim from someone who knew him very well, make sure to read “Meet the Press” executive producer Betsy Fischer Martin’s reflections.) Even so, I remember vividly where I was and how I felt when Tom Brokaw delivered the news of Tim’s passing.
I was standing in the newsroom of the washingtonpost.com in Virginia. When Brokaw started speaking, I just stood in front of the TV and felt a cold chill go through me. Silence filled the room. It felt like we all had lost a friend. I remember very few specific moments amid the whirlwind of covering national campaigns for this past decade but I remember those few minutes vividly.
I wrote about what Tim meant to me in the immediate aftermath of his passing. That piece focused on how big a loss his death was for the profession of political journalism. And it was — and is.
Five years later, I find myself wishing that Tim had been around to see all the amazing things that have happened in politics. I wonder how he would have treated the rises and falls of Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain and, most, especially Newt Gingrich during the 2012 Republican presidential primaries. I miss hearing Tim’s analysis of Bill Clinton’s speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. I miss knowing what Tim would have made of the collapse of the grand bargain in the summer of 2011. Or the rise of the tea party. Or Marco Rubio. Or Cory Booker. Or Chris Christie. Or Jerry Brown as governor of California (again). Or a million other political storylines big and small that I know he would have loved.
Tim’s unvarnished passion is the thing that has stuck with me over the five years since his passing. He LOVED politics — the personalities, the statistics, the strategy — and it showed. When you watched “Meet”, you knew you were watching a political junkie who relished the game and who, to his immense credit, was never overly cynical about politicians and government. He was a passionate optimist in a political world largely populated by pessimists. And he loved what he did.
I loved and admired that about Tim then. And the longer I spend in this profession, the more I love and admire both his passion and his lack of cynicism. The world, and most especially the world of politics, is a lesser place without Tim in them. That’s as true today as it was five years ago.