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Laraine Newman Headshot

For the Love of Tim

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When Tim Russert, the beloved former anchor of Meet The Press, died suddenly, I sat in front of the TV sobbing at the sight of Tom Brokaw crying, Matt Lauer crying and everyone else giving testimonials to this great man.

I think of Tim Russert every time I see his son, Luke.

The poor kid had just graduated college two weeks before his father's death, and yet it was clear he was being fast tracked to be an anchor of some sort as soon as possible. His only experience at that point was working for ESPN's Pardon the Interruption: a brash and humorous sports TV show.

I kept wondering when they were going to do an Eliza Doolittle on his ass. His hair looked like Moe Howard meets Eddie Vedder. But it was his speech that "like totally" cracked me up. Words like "really" sounded like "rully," "philosophy" becomes "flossfee." Phrases like "wanted to" came out "wanndda." He spoke "Dude."

Still, for a 22-year-old, (at the time) he was remarkably articulate, eloquent and composed as he was prevailed upon for interviews. And by the time he spoke at his father's memorial service, he'd gotten the extreme makeover, diction and all. He's come a long way and I couldn't have been more proud of him as he held on like a gila monster, while John Boehner tried to deflect questions regarding Republican fundraising from the Benghazi attacks.

Another thing that makes me think of Tim Russert, no, make that yearn for Tim Russert, is David Gregory. I believe Tim Russert was liberal, but he drilled down on liberals and conservatives alike. He subscribed to what seems to be long gone in journalism today: perceived objectivity. His warmth and ebullient charm were matched by his formidable brilliance. He was thoroughly prepared with an almost archival ability to substantiate his "take no prisoners" assertions and he spared no one.

Often his guests would find themselves on the ropes if they deserved it, but he always stopped short of the knockout punch that people like Bill O'Reilly think nothing of delivering. He would never be so boorish as to cut his guest off with a remark (mostly opinion, designed to look like fact) positioning himself to have the last word. Tim Russert was able to see the nuance between tenacity and bullying...unlike Bill O'Reilly.

David Gregory, as my people would say, is a lox, poor fellow. His style is different....well, maybe "style" is too colorful a word to describe Gregory's manner. One journalist describes him as "a guy who doesn't believe it's his job to ask follow up questions to fact check a guest." Also that he "never met a Republican meme that he didn't embrace with full force."

What I've observed about David Gregory is that he deals in those circuitous false equivalencies that, in my opinion, are the hallmark of conservative rhetoric. It's unimaginable to me that Tim Russert would have ever engaged in this kind of behavior.

I've stopped watching Meet The Press because of David Gregory. Although I suppose there's something to be said for being so irritated by a moderator that you reach your aerobic rate just by sitting on your couch. AND, P.S., have you ever, ever heard of a network inviting a "brand consultant" to talk to the friends and wife of an existing employee? An on-camera employee? That's just the most peculiar thing I've ever heard of.

I understand that Meet The Press ratings are the lowest they've been in decades and I'm really sorry to hear that. I don't wish David Gregory any ill will. I've seen the clips of Savanna Guthrie's appearance on Meet The Press and the hundreds of tweets proclaiming that she should take it over. She was adorable but there are plenty of moderators just as competent as she. I think it's a case, to put it crudely of "shining in shit."

No, I think MSNBC's Joy Reed is the obvious choice to replace David Gregory. She has all the qualities that made Tim Russert great: Intelligence, charm, a sense of humor and the willingness to be objective and fair. Who's with me?

Still, every time I see Luke Russert, I think of his dad and I get a little lump in my throat after all this time. And sometimes, when I see David Gregory making such a mess out of Meet The Press, I have a fantasy of Tim Russert sweeping in looking like one of the guys from 300. If there was ever a moment where we needed a Hollywood ending, the one where it's almost certain that our hero is gone...but wait....no....it's a miracle...he's here after all! I wish we could have that with Tim Russert. Not only because I loved the guy, but also because he needs to remind everyone how it's done. God I miss him.