We were driving home from the mountains Friday when we heard of Tim Russert's passing, and together we said, "What?" If ever a TV political analyst achieved rock star status, it was Russert. His dry-erase boards, huge maps with red and blue states, his never-ending smirk, his unwavering confidence in everything he said and asked. He was the guy you wanted to sit next to in history class. Or to be your neighbor. Or just be the guy who broke everything down so that you understood it and could then go on to a dinner party and sound like you were an amateur political scientist. He didn't pass along his opinions so much as he helped you form yours. Always one to dice up both sides, Russert could step back and see the big picture.
One of the three presidential debates this fall will be held in nearby Oxford, Miss., just a four-hour drive from here. Just last week, I thought, hey, wouldn't it be a cool road trip to drive over to Ole Miss in September, stand outside the auditorium and catch a glimpse of McCain, Obama and, whoa, Nellie! What if Tim Russert happens to be the moderator?! I had a mental list of friends I would invite to ride along. As the doors closed and the debate began, leaving us standing in the hot, sticky Mississippi night without a ticket or credentials, we would drive over to Taylor and eat catfish and pout about not being able to see the debate. It would have been something else.
Russert made presidential elections FUN. The campaigns. The debates. The returns.
When it comes to severe weather, we have a favorite meteorologist. Breaking news, we turn to a certain network. Political analysis, hands down, it was Russert.