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The Tim Russert Story Todd Purdum Wouldn't Tell You


Like Arianna, I was bemused by the big wet kiss the Times' Todd Purdum gave Russert on Sunday. So here's one little anecdote that I would have loved to see worked into the Russert profile.

Last June Russert gave the Class Day address at Harvard. He was invited primarily because the Harvard administration was upset about the raunchy speech given by comedian Ali G the previous year. (It was pretty funny, though apparently not all the parents agreed.)

But students were unhappy about the invitation to Russert, because they rightly considered him the officially-sanctioned speaker and because they knew that Russert gave a ton of commencement speeches.

So one group of enterprising students dug up the graduation speeches Russert had given...and found that they were pretty much exactly alike.

Suspecting more of the same, they printed up bingo cards with Russert's phrasing in the squares. "You know, I'm often asked my favorite Meet the Press stories...." Or: "As Justice Frankfurter admonished...." Or: "So I called Whitey Ford...."

The Bingo cards were distributed to members of the graduating class in the audience. And after a few minutes, you started to hear cries of "Bingo!" interrupting Russert's speech every time he uttered a line like, "My late colleague David Brinkley once reminisced..." Or. "Mother Teresa....she's a modern-day saint."

Until finally the "Bingo!" was almost as loud as the quite confused Russert, who wrapped up his speech in a hurry.

It's not the most important story in the world. But it does show that a bunch of college kids had a little more skepticism about and perspective on the power of Washington journalists than did a reporter from the New York Times.