The gimlet-eyed interlocutor of Meet the Press is a pussycat when it comes to matters of family and faith.
Russert, the kid from blue-collar South Buffalo who now grills the prominent and powerful, writes in a style as unadorned as the snow in the land of the Bills. Uncle Fran was a police detective and a great ballplayer. Big Russ, Tim’s father, supported his family by driving a newspaper truck and collecting garbage; he instructed young Tim (Little Russ) in decent behavior and how to wrap trash considerately. Little Russ served as an altar boy, tended his paper route, and took a summer job on a garbage truck—he still seems to recognize garbage when he smells it, even if it’s wrapped in the finest political fustian. The author fondly recalls hours with Dad at the Legion Hall, the nuns in grammar school, and his Jesuit teachers at Canisius High. In college, Tim booked speakers and entertainers for the University Club. A fan of both John F. and Robert Kennedy, he went to law school, then worked for Pat Moynihan, his intellectual father, and for Mario Cuomo. At NBC, he booked the Pope, no less, for Today before moving up to oversee the Washington news bureau and the Sunday morning talk shows. Russert offers little about the news business or his work on Meet the Press, eschewing the talking-head mode to speak from the heart in a particularly American way. (Check out the chapter titles: “Respect,” “Work,” “Faith,” “Baseball,” and “Cars,” etc.) This memory piece is primarily a devoted tribute to Dad, and if Big Russ doesn’t seem much different than anyone else’s father, that’s fine. As portrayed by his son, he’s the best national Pop since Robert Young in Father Knows Best. And Little Russ seems to be a pretty nice Dad himself.
A largely self-effacing souvenir and a fulsome, sincere Father’s Day greeting. (16 pp. photos, not seen)