Whatever you thought of Tim Russert, boy did it take guts for Linda Hirshman at The Nation to write this critique of him.
As for me, I only had one interaction with him in my life, and it was at a Mike Huckabee event in January at the Val Air ballroom in Des Moines. Russert was standing alone in the crowd near the back and I went up to him. I had a press badge on, though I’m not sure he saw that. I asked him what he thought about Huckabee. He just put his hands up in a semi-surrender way; he literally would not say one word.
At first, I took his (non-)response to be rude. But I later realized he probably felt he had a duty not to express an opinion, whatever it was, about people he had or would have to (again) interview some day. On the one hand you could take this as an indication of inflated self-regard, but the more I thought about it the more I concluded he just felt like he had to be as neutral a referee as possible. (But again, read Hirshman’s critique, which makes several compelling arguments.)
A final point: Although I think the whole Buffalo-and-Big-Russ stuff got a bit maudlin at times, the thing I most admired about Russert was that he was a working-class kid from Upstate New York, just as I am, and he let people know it. I’ve interacted with my share of well-connected Ivy League grads in this town who became “senior editors” or whatever not long after they took their first legal drink. For all the talk of how elitist the elected classes are, the chattering classes are more elitist. What Russert proved was that you could make it all the way to the top even if you started near the bottom.