Opinion

Advice for Luke Russert: Don’t write a book

Photo of Mark Judge
Mark Judge
Author, A Tremor of Bliss

As Howard Kurtz recently reported in the Daily Beast, the packaging of Luke Russert, son of the late journalist and legend Tim Russert, has begun. NBC hired Luke after his father’s death in 2008, and because of all the goodwill towards Russert pere, Luke, despite a clunky TV presence and no political knowledge, has just acquired job security for life. MSNBC, where young Russert works, is hiding him from the media until he gets his training wheels off.

I only have one piece of advice: please, Luke, don’t write a book about fathers. The Russert tradition of maudlin odes to the folksy common sense of our silently suffering progenitors has passed. Another Russert volume about the timeless lessons of life, baseball, and living while learning the life lessons dad taught me and there will be a worldwide diabetic coma.

I always thought Tim Russert was something of a phony. His humility, grounded in his schmaltzy love for his hometown of Buffalo, always seemed excessive — and more than a little dishonest. I don’t deny that Russert had a golden childhood in mid-century America, when people kept their doors open and everyone knew everyone else. I don’t doubt that his father, “Big Russ,” was a war hero who worked two jobs to support his family. What I doubt is that Russert was not an ambitious man and that he reluctantly accepted fame and his elite status. Frankly I think he had a huge ego and couldn’t wait to get the hell out of Buffalo.

Tim Russert’s cornpone books and stories were a way on ingratiating himself with the elites by making him their small-town moral better. Flesh and blood journalists and celebrities, people with problems and scars, felt virtuous by soaking up some of his just-folks, American Legion hall aura. His bestseller “Big Russ and Me” is a saccharine antipode to the family-hell memoir, but that doesn’t make it any less excessive or dishonest. More than halfway through the book, Russert reveals that in 1970s, after thirty years of marriage, Big Russ and Tim’s mother Betty separated. Russert spends a half a page on it, notes that it — like everything else — made him more humble, and moves on. Did Russert feel rage? Blame someone? Get drunk? Nope. There is no moment of conflict or confrontation. He simply never asked his parents why they were separating.

Here’s another fact about Russert that I never got: he sent Luke to St. Alban’s, one of the most elite schools in the country. St. Albans, the alma mater of Al Gore, Jesse Jackson Jr. and lots of journalists, is an Episcopal school that sits on a hill overlooking Washington, D.C. In his book “Big Russ and Me,” Russert spends chapter after chapter celebrating the Catholic priests and nuns who taught him. He rhapsodizes about the centrality of the church to his life growing up in Buffalo. When he arrived as host of “Meet the Press,” Russert stayed active in the church, frequently appearing at fundraisers for Catholic charities. Again, it was the sappy watch-me-be-humble humility that is supposed to be ingratiating.

  • Vortex

    I’ll give you that father-son-love of baseball books can be cheesy, but really? Are you really going to argue that Luke Russert attending St. Albans was some sort of deep rooted rejection of Catholicism or a social climbing move? What the hell does that have to do with anything? Maybe the kid just didn’t want to go to Georgetown Prep.

    This is a rather irrelevant piece, just a cheap excuse to swipe at a dead man’s career. For someone that has so much distaste for Tim Russert, Judge seems creepily obsessed with the family. I’ll give Luke this: it takes a lot of dignity and determination to get up each day and do your job knowing that, no matter what you do, people will always whisper nepotism behind your back. So if Luke writes a book and people buy it, good for him. People bought those stupid chicken soup for the soul books and it is no skin off my back.

  • joep55weirdvibes

    I’m not a big Tim Russert fan, but to trash him like this is pretty low. Does the Daily Caller really it’s proper to accept articles like this trashing dead people? You guys have sunk to a new low.

    Sounds to me like the author of this article just didn’t like Mr. Russert and wanted to vent in a website. No value whatsoever from this stupidly-written and venomous collection of nastiness.

    As far as Luke goes, so what if he got the job because of his father? These things happen all the time. What’s the big deal? Over time either he’ll excel or he won’t. So far he just seems to regurgitate what other people have said earlier about whatever he’s reporting on. Maybe in time he’ll actually form his own set of opinions instead of borrowing from others; or, maybe he won’t. Time will tell.

    How low will you go, Tucker, to denigrate liberals? How’s about a little more fact-based reporting on this website and less personal attack nastiness?

  • bobbyvand

    After reading this column I’m left wondering one thing. Why? Why write a nasty piece of conjecture about someone you clearly knew little about, especially when they are no longer around to refute you. Was this really about you not liking his books? Seems like an odd byline to take on.

    Tim Russert WAS the man you saw weekly on MTP. He loved his blue collar roots and NEVER abandoned them as you suggest. He was bigger than small town Buffalo and pursued dreams his father could only have imagined for his only son. As to his son Luke, he dotted on him and clearly raised him well. You may not like Luke’s network affiliation but they were the first to grab him. For being so young, I think he’s doing a fine job. Did you catch his question to Rep. Charlie Rangel a few month’s ago. Rangel was so caught off guard by such a tough question (“are you worried about losing your job”) he proceeded to dress down Luke on the spot. When Luke said he was from NBC, and also MSNBC ,Rangel replied “that didn’t sound like a NBC kind of question”. (Rangel later apologized). Right then and there I said to myself, Tim would be proud of that one. (Full disclosure)I grew up in Buffalo and know his family very well. He was loved by that city and he treated people well when he visited. A measure of one’s character is how you treat people. You could use some work Mr. Judge.

  • sandrac50

    There should be more news journalists like Tim Russert. Why is it so hard to believe that a man can care about, and want to talk about, his hometown, his football team, his family?? Tim Russert was a REAL man because he talked about what was important to him. He was not a phony. Yes, Tim was a Catholic. Maybe Maureen is not. Possibly Tim compromised and enrolled Luke at St. Albans to do what was best for the family. He was a family man. He cared. It is not our business. Not only did he know how to report the news, he knew how to make you care about the news. He made you want to listen to him. If Luke was paying attention, he may be lucky enough to rip off those training wheels sooner than you think and surprise you. And if he chooses to write a book about his dad, baseball or the lessons of life someday, I for one, will not suffer a “diabetic coma.” Shame on you, Mr. Judge.

  • relayer10

    Tim Russert was, perhaps, the last journalist. His interviews were excellent, and he demanded answers from people who are trained to avoid answers. If they would not answer or spin…he simply said, “then you won’t answer the question…let’s move on”. It’s simply not honest to ignore his professional approach to his position.

    To expect Luke Russert to somehow replace his father in that capacity is not fair to Luke. He has to make his own path- as his dad would have encouraged. And sorry, Tim did actually like Buffalo, and “Buffalonians” still like him as well…

    And maybe it’s no longer cool to love your parents so much that you could write about them. No one forces you to buy the books…

  • unidled

    How is Luke Russert any less qualified than Steve Docey’s son Peter. Peter Docey is as dull as a butter knife, has a staccato delivery, has no personality and were it not for his dad, he would be asking whether you wanted fries with that burger. Nepotism, apparently is not exclusive to the left or the righjt.

  • jraff1

    Finally, someone said it in print, Tim Russert was a phony and his “go bills!” routine every Sunday was part of the act — he was incredibly overrated.