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.”

And as a journalist, Tim was simply the best. Yes, he was tougher on Democrats than Republicans, but that was only his way of making sure he was fair. Nobody did his homework like Tim. Nobody prepared harder for every broadcast. His questions were always tough, pointed, persistent even — but they were also always fair.

What I appreciate most about Tim Russert is that he remained a gentleman. He became America’s leading journalist without ever throwing a chair, without being sued for sexual harassment, and without ever apologizing for an off-color, racist, or sexist remark — unlike other wannabes in the media we know.

Tim Russert made us all proud to be journalists, and I feel blessed to have known him.

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