David Louis Edelman David Louis Edelman

Tim Russert: 1950-2008

Here’s how I’ll remember him.

The evening of November 7, 2000. It’s three or four in the morning. Bush and Gore deadlocked, a passel of Florida voters separating them. Most of the regulars are starting to rotate out for the night, realizing that there will be no grand finale to the evening. But Tim Russert’s there. He’s got a long-sleeved shirt with the long sleeves sloppily rolled up. There’s sweat stains on his armpits. His five o’clock shadow is shortly to become a five o’clock a.m. shadow. It’s clear the man’s been hustling up and down the news floor all night. He’s been on the phone for hours.

Tim RussertIn his hands? A microphone, a laptop computer, a remote control, a fancy prop? No. A dry-erase board that looks like it was probably swiped off someone’s desk in passing. This hasn’t been blocked, it hasn’t been scripted, the lighting guy is probably fussing at the glare coming off the board, thinking Couldn’t you have frickin’ told me you were going to grab a dry-erase board before you sat down, Tim?

And Tim’s writing. He’s writing furiously. Explaining to whomever is sitting in that other chair (Tom Brokaw?) the mathematics of the electoral college. It comes down to Ohio and Florida. No, just Florida. If Gore wins Florida, he wins. If Bush wins Florida, he wins. Too close to call. Look! The columns of numbers are slanted almost to the point of toppling over.

And I’m thinking of Secretariat, the Triple Crown-winning horse who pulled away from the pack at the end of the Belmont Stakes. The Belmont, longest of the three big races, one and a half miles, the big test of endurance. Secretariat is leagues ahead of the rest, he’s practically at the finish line — and he’s still accelerating. He’s 31 lengths ahead of the second-place horse. He’s not tired. He looks like he could tear around the track for a whole other lap if they’d let him. But finally the jockey’s got to ease him up, he’s got to let the horse know, hey, slow down, you’ve won.

Tim Russert has not only covered the epic struggle between Bush and Gore through the night — at that moment, he looks like he’s ready to sit through a whole other election. His eyes are slightly bulging. His muscles seem to be tense. The dude is on. And I imagine at some point, after the cameras were shut off, somebody had to walk in and tap him on the shoulder to let him know, hey Tim, slow down, you already nailed it. Save some for tomorrow, huh?

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  1. amy p on June 13, 2008 at 4:43 pm  Chain link

    perfect. RIP, Mr. Russert.

  2. Scott Parker on June 13, 2008 at 7:31 pm  Chain link

    David,

    Nice piece. I remember going to be that night, waking up early…and Tim still there. I wrote my thoughts on my blog, too. Sunday’s will be different from now on. And to think, he’ll miss this election. But he’ll still be watching, and grinning from ear to ear.

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