Speeches and Line-Dancing

Where do we draw the line? Where do I draw the line? And also, why do I suddenly care about drawing lines?

Because I get paid, sometimes, to make speeches. A lot of fortunate journalists and opinion-makers do. Others want to, but their employers either won't let them or impose severe limitations on these lucrative appearances.

The thinking is that if we take the big bucks from the very groups that can afford to pay, our objectivity might be compromised and we might slant our reporting to favor the wealthy special interests. At the very least, we might look like we are.

The Task of Following Russert

The date was Oct. 24, 1999, and at the campaign headquarters for Senate Republicans, we were just getting word that Sen. John Chafee (R-R.I.) had died.

Within an hour of the news being confirmed, reporters were calling me — as the spokesman for the campaign committee responsible for electing Republicans to the U.S. Senate — to get information on what his death meant with respect to a special election in Rhode Island or the possible appointment of Chafee’s son to the Senate. Then, on July 18, 2000, history repeated itself as Sen. Paul Coverdell (R–Ga.) — one of the hardest-working people in the Senate and well-liked in both parties — died. We were stunned by the news. And again the media calls poured in to me and we scrambled to find and explain what the special election or appointment procedures were in Georgia. It seemed so cruel, but the political machine churned. As time has gone on, I’ve found this it is not a sign of disrespect to the person but an acknowledgment of the business and passion they chose to pursue.

What Would Russert Do?

I was moved by the many, incredible tributes to Tim Russert I watched and read this weekend. The ones from dear friends like Mike Barnicle, Joe Klein, Al Hunt and Judy Woodruff were especially poignant, and the interview that Luke Russert gave Matt Lauer on "The Today Show" this morning was the killer.

But I wanted to share another one from Chuck Todd, political director at NBC, that you may have not seen. It appeared this morning in First Read, which Todd and his team publish each day, informing the political world with analysis and the top news stories.

People Need to Make Their Health Deadline a Priority

So many things come to mind in the wake of the passing of the great and gifted Tim Russert. But two are fitting for this column.

First, what a small town our capital city still is, isn’t it? Nearly everyone has a Tim Russert story — about how they met him in a restaurant or at the ballpark, how he remembered your kids’ names and asked about them like he really cared — because he did. He’d show up at my IFE/INFO Policy Roundtables and be the first one there, eager to talk with people, learn what folks were thinking. Tim certainly could call any of the IFE/INFO speakers and get straight through, but he liked listening to the Q and A. He valued that personal interaction, which was a key to his success.

Tim Russert: Always a Gentleman

Like millions of other Americans, out of habit I tuned into “Meet the Press” Sunday morning. It’s still hard to believe Tim wasn’t there — and Sunday mornings will never be the same without him.

Tim was, first of all, a great guy. Larger than life, and great fun to be around. He loved life, loved his family, and loved politics.

As famous as he became, Tim never forgot his working-class roots in Buffalo. And he never abandoned his Catholic faith. In fact, Tim came to journalism through politics. And he came to politics through his faith, where he learned politics — and, later, journalism — as the highest form of public service. For him, the Catholic faith was all about helping those less fortunate than we are. I considered it the greatest compliment when he once called me a “Sermon on the Mount Catholic.”

Tim Russert

Tim Russert was not just another pretty face.

Let’s face it. He wasn’t really a pretty face.

But he was the best at his craft.

He wasn’t a traditional journalist. He migrated from politics to journalism, so he knew well the field that he covered.

You could always sense that Tim loved politics as much as he loved the country.

Cable's Psychosexual Clinton Disorder

Listening to the weird, strange and obsessive discussion about Bill and Hillary Clinton on cable talk shows, one can only conclude that counseling and treatment is required in certain cases, and turning the channel is required in others.

This is not a criticism of the Clintons, it is a criticism of the punditocracy and commentariat classes who have been almost preternaturally wrong in predicting the election, and candidly, don’t have much to say beyond the lunch-talk conventional wisdom of the day.

First, let’s get this straight, Hillary Clinton will not be the vice presidential choice and an entire swath of cable coverage is flat-out wrong, silly and ridiculous. Watching the almost addictive saturation fantasizing about this, which I for one will no longer watch, makes one wonder if this is clinical. It is amazing that close to 90 percent of what runs on cable political news involves a fantasy that will not happen.

A More Humble Mr. Williams

Armstrong Williams asks that his current work not be judged by his past, and reminds everyone that his thoughts are his own, not paid for by anyone.


The New Media Lingo

The ongoing political campaign has been a boon to the media, especially the cable punditry. One interesting feature of its current coverage is the new lingo I’ve noticed seeping into the commentary. These are some of my favorite clichés.

“Throw him under the bus ...” This one is used by all the commentators in questioning why Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) did not divorce himself sooner from the provocative rhetoric of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Not only should the senator have criticized his former pastor, he should have “thrown him under the bus.” What’s that supposed to mean? A metaphor, no doubt, but surely not what the picture connotes.

“At the end of the day ...” This is how pundits sum up. Not “considering all these points, I conclude ...” or something like that. It is invariably, “At the end of the day ...” Since the political vicissitudes change daily, why use this inapt reference? At the end of the day comes tomorrow.

Bev Broadman: A Memorial

The differences between showbiz and newsbiz are small. Anybody with half a brain can tell you that the real stars are the ones no one hears about.

I'm talking about the real brains behind the scenes, the ones we sarcastically call "The Little People.” Of course, they're actually the giants on whose shoulders these performances rest.

One of these people was Beverly Broadman. I say "was” because Bev died this week, consumed by illness.

She leaves us at a relatively early age, but she was not too young to leave behind a remarkable legacy.