Friday, June 20, 2008

The Russert Connection

In the week since he died, after all the millions of words about his life, there is the question of, beyond the self-love of media people celebrating themselves, why do so many care so much about Tim Russert's death?

Peggy Noonan today has the start of an answer: "The world admires, and wants to hold on to, and not lose, goodness. It admires virtue. At the end it gives its greatest tributes to generosity, honesty, courage, mercy, talents well used, talents that, brought into the world, make it better...That's what we talk about in eulogies, because that's what's important. We don't say, 'The thing about Joe was he was rich.' We say, if we can, 'The thing about Joe was he took care of people.'"

In the week's outpouring of sentiment, there was a striking emphasis on Russert's random acts of kindness-concern for people and their families far beyond the token gestures of a political life. After all the talk about his work, we are left with the residue of a sweet man who lived out E. M. Forster's injunction, "Only connect!"

What we long for in our hyperactive, overcrowded and wised-up lives is some joining of what Forster called "the prose and the passion"--some sense of a feeling heart behind all the cunning and the calculation of it all.

Tim Russert of Buffalo knew just what E M. Forster of Cambridge meant.

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