Much has already been said about the death of one of the toughest and most authentic political journalists of our time, most of it far more eloquent than anything I'll be able to manage. I'll confine myself, therefore, to one short anecdote about the father of my classmate Luke.
A public persona is an easy thing to manage, and while Mr. Russert's public face never failed to dazzle -- his speech at my high school graduation was one of the most inspiring I've ever heard -- the true measure of a man lies in his behavior when the spotlights are turned off. It is here that the chasm of character between Mr. Russert and the other assorted poo-bahs I've met revealed itself; for unlike so many men of power and prestige, Tim Russert was unfailingly kind, respectful, and generous towards those who wouldn't even merit a nod from others.
About two years ago, I found myself in Buffalo -- attending a funeral no less -- with a close friend by the name of Mr. C. As it happened, Mr. C. had attended high school with Russert, and regaled me with stories about the "nice Irish boy who made it big but didn't forget his roots." After a time, the group of us wound up at a local Beef on Weck place called 'Charlie the Butcher'. At this point, Mr. C. turned to me, smiled, and said "Now I'll never forget what he did here."
"About a year ago," he continued, "Tim and I were in here buying lunch for a whole bunch of people. The total came out to 45 bucks, and Tim paid with a fifty. After taking one look at Tim, the cashier shut the register drawer and said 'No Sir. After all you've done for this town, you eat here for free.'"
I can remember Mr. C. smiling at this point, taking an exaggerated pause, and finally proceeding with relish: "So Tim said 'Thank You', collected our lunch, and then just before reaching the door he dropped the fifty in the tip jar. The two of us then broke into a run, and had driven away before they could catch us and give us back the money."
At this point, the cashier interrupted Mr. C's story, turning to me and saying: "It happened just like he described, and next time you see Tim, tell him that the guys at Charlie's watch his program."
Rest in peace, Mr. Russert. You will be missed.
A posting from the Duc
(Cross-posted at The Reactionary Epicurean and the Postmodern Conservative)