Civil per­sis­tence

The Washington Times Weekly - - National -

Look for Tim Russert to be front and cen­ter at the new Na­tion­als Park af­ter it was an­nounced last week that Pope Bene­dict XVI will cel­e­brate Mass for 45,000 Wash­ing­ton-area faith­ful in mid-April.

“I saw John Paul II at Yan­kee Sta­dium, so it’s only fit­ting that I see Pope Bene­dict at the Na­tion­als’ ball­park,” said NBC’s “Meet the Press” host, who is al­ways good for a pope tale or two.

“When John Paul II first came to Wash­ing­ton — I think it was in 1979, when Jimmy Carter was pres­i­dent — I brought my dad, ‘Big Russ,’ to the White House — you know, this guy from Buf­falo. First of all, to be on the lawn of the White House and ob­serve the pres­i­dent and the pope. But he was very taken by the day be­cause he was seated next to Colonel San­ders. That made a big im­pres­sion,” Mr. Russert laughed dur­ing an in­ter­view Nov. 13.

“But then the pope came down the aisle and shook hands, and my dad had th­ese fore­arms from work­ing hard as a truck driver and a san­i­ta­tion worker, and he just locked the pope in this vice,” at which point Mr. Russert pleaded, “Dad, un­hand him!”

We caught up with the pop­u­lar Sun­day morn­ing news host be­cause Nov. 14, flanked by news­mak­ers from the past six decades, Mr. Russert cel­e­brated 60 years of “Meet the Press” dur­ing a starstud­ded gala at the New­seum’s “Great Hall of News.”

“It’s an ex­tra­or­di­nary his­tory, the long­est-run­ning television pro­gram in the his­tory of the world — news, en­ter­tain­ment or sports, it’s the one fix­ture,” noted Mr. Russert. “I had the op­por­tu­nity to ac­tu­ally spend some time with Lawrence Spi­vak when I took over the show 16 years ago. I went to his apart­ment [at the Sher­a­ton-Park Ho­tel], which was a shrine to ‘Meet the Press.’

“And I asked him a sim­ple ques­tion: When he founded the show, what was the mis­sion back in the 1940s? And he said to learn as much as you can about your guest and his or her po­si­tion on the is­sues and then take the other side. And do that in a per­sis­tent way, but a civil way. And you will de­velop an ex­pec­ta­tion for the pro­gram that will, in ef­fect, be time­less. And it was great ad­vice.”

Mr. Russert added he’s “ei­ther watched or read all 3,000 tran­scripts” of “Meet the Press” dat­ing back to 1947, to “get a sense of the in­sti­tu­tional his­tory.”

“I view it very much as a na­tional trea­sure, and I am the tem­po­rary cus­to­dian and try to take care of it, and hope­fully pass it off in good shape one day,” he said.

Getty Images

Tim Russert, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press” for more than 15 years, at­tended the Nov. 14 gala cel­e­brat­ing the pro­gram’s 60 years of broad­cast­ing.

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