I cannot say that I was close personal friends with Tim Russert.
I cannot say I ever met the man or even watched one of his programs from start to finish a half dozen times.
But when Tim Russert passed away yesterday at the age of 58, I lost a friend because America lost a friend.
Russert was a friend to America that a person can only be if they have a father and are raised the small town Buffalo, New York. (You want to know how small Buffalo is? Their National Football League franchise has not even been to the Super Bowl in over a decade.)
To a lesser extent, Russert also had a wife and a son. Nobody seems interested in his mother so I am going to assume he did not have one.
Russert rose from these humble origins to become the Washington D.C. Bureau Chief for NBC News, but he gained the most fame for being the much admired host of Meet the Press, a Sunday morning public affairs programs that is also popular excuse for good citizens who skip church.
Russert had been the permanent host of the show since 1991 and during that time built a mighty following. The show usually was watched by less than 4.7 million viewers. If my calculations are correct, this means that Meet the Press was watched weekly by each and every person in the United States of America who has ever run for public office, been appointed to a position in the federal government and/or appeared on a cable news channel to talk about politics. And, on its most popular weeks, upwards of nearly one half dozen people who do not fit into any of those categories would also watch.
Russert had such a large audience because he was a skilled interviewer and a brilliant observer. For no apparent reason, examples of insightful questions or astute commentary from Russert have been left out of all of the highlight packages that have run since his death. Everyone says he was a great journalist, however, so presumably he was. Again, I very rarely watched the show and therefore will have to go with common wisdom that we turned to Russert when we needed to know the truth.
So what does the future hold for the world now that we have lost the host of Meet the Press? In the short term, I expect someone like Tom Brokaw to fill in. The upcoming U.S. presidential election will have to be postponed until the show has a permanent host who has been at the job for a minimum of 12 months.
As for the long term, there is no hope. We were already facing a world of high energy and food prices, where water is becoming scarce and cage fights are a popular spectator sport. Tim Russert was the only hope we had in this Road Warrioresque landscape. Without him, we are doomed.