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Interview with Tim Russert

Aired May 18, 2005 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Tim Russert of "Meet the Press." He grills all the biggest newsmakers, now it's his turn to go on the other route. Tim Russert taking your calls on all the news of the day, lots to talk about, next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We give this coal which keeps hanging around. We were talking before we went on, Tim Russert and I have known each other for 25 years. He has hosted "Meet the Press" for 14 years. That's longer than Larry Spivack hosted it. He's the author of the No. 1 New York Times best seller "Big Russ and Me." It was No. 1 in hard cover. And a week from Sunday, it will be on the best seller list in trade paperback. There you see its cover.

Did all of that surprise you, that book, and the way the react -- the way the public reacted?

TIM RUSSERT, MEET THE PRESS: It sure did, Larry. I wrote a book to affirm my dad's life. Big Russ, who was special to my family. Someone who quit school in the tenth grade and went over to World War II, parachute rigger on a B-24 Liberator. And involved in a terrible plane crash. And spent six months in a hospital. And then came home. Married my mom, raised four kids. And spent 30 years as a truck driver and an sanitation man.

And I didn't think it would resonate with as many people as it has. And what I found out, Larry, as I went around the country, there are a lot of big Russes out there, people who remember their dads in such a way and they want to talk about him. And they say that my dad is a man of few words, but he taught me by the quiet eloquence of his hard work and by his decency.

And it was such an important lesson for this whole country. It is the best thing I've ever done in my life was to write this book. It changed my relationship with my dad. It changed my relationship with my own son. I am forever, ever grateful.

KING: You ought to be proud. It's a terrific read. And by the way, Big Russ was a real blue collar guy. Did this book do well in red colored states?

RUSSERT: Did it ever. That's the great thing about our country, we are one. And there -- red states or blue states, all those guys are generation -- the greatest generation as my buddy Tom Brokaw called them, who just put their nose to the grindstone and hoped for the best, to quote Big Russ.

And did they ever. We were the 12th rated military in World War II. And we galvanized this country from Jimmy Dolittle to Rosie the Riveter. And we won the war beating Adolf Hitler and the Japanese.

And then they all came home, Larry, and most worked two full time jobs, sometimes three jobs. They never complained.

I said to my dad, how do you do truck driving and garbage man 30 years. That had to wear you down, that had to be tiring. That had to be monotonous. He said, some guys couldn't find one. End of subject.

KING: As the movie said, the best years of our lives they gave for their country.

Now, like Brokaw, have you been bitten by the book bug? Are you writing another one?

RUSSERT: Well, you know, it's amazing. The answer is yes. I have received tens of thousands of letters from daughters and sons saying, let me tell you about my dad. Big Joe, Big Mario, Big Irv, Big Fred, Big Ted.

And the stories, Larry, you cannot read two of three of these letters without putting them down. They are so emotional. And they're not just cheerleading letters about my dad is the greatest dad in the world. They're a lot of heartfelt letters which said, I didn't talk to my dad for years. We finally reconnected. Or I wish I had said to my dad, I love him before he died.

And so I'm taking these letters. And they are lessons of life that these daughters and sons learned from their own dads. Your dad and you, if you will. Daughters and sons, lessons of life. And I'm trying to -- for father's day of '06, saying to the country, I shared Big Russ with you. And now you shared your dad with the rest of the country.

If people are interested, Larry, we have a Web site called And there's a letter there from me which says if you want to share stories about your dad, please do so. It's a chance to make your dad famous, but it's also a chance to show your love your dad and share his store we the rest of the country.

We have to affirm these men and their lives because they really were and are the backbone of what made this country great.

KING: So you're an editor now?

RUSSERT: Yes. I've read every one of these letters myself. I keep combing through them day after day, hour after hour, get up early and before I go to bed. And I had a wonderful one today about a young girl who is ashamed that her dad was a plumber, because her best friend's dad was a lawyer. And she kept saying your father's a plumber. How gross.

Well, as you might expect, one day her older sister was getting married. The plumbing froze in the heaviest snowstorm of the year. They couldn't find a plumber from the yellow pages. They had to call this girl's father who walked over, said where is the main water valve? The lawyer who owned the house said what's that? The plumber turned it off, saved the house, saved the wedding. Walked back home and said to the little girl, now who's smart?

And she signed it, I'll always be proud to be a plumber's daughter. Nothing like it.

KING: We'll talk more about it later. "Big Russ and Me" is now out in trade paperback. And again, if you have any contributions about your father, anything you want to write down, just check in on the Internet. You'll see a letter from Tim, you respond to it.

Let's get to some things, first, Tim. I just got a letter from Peter Jennings. What do you hear?

RUSSERT: Oh, it's so hard. Peter is -- he's so brave, so stoic. And he's demonstrating to the country in meeting his latest challenge why he was such an extraordinary journalist, always throwing himself completely into it.

But it's hard. It is uphill and no one is saying anything else but that. Who would have thought, Larry, a year ago, if you were sitting around in a coffee shop with you in L.A. saying, do you think Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather and Peter Jennings will all be off the air in one year? No one would take that bet. And now, they're all off the air.

KING: What do you make? You gave me the news, I hadn't heard it that 60 minutes II has been canceled.

RUSSERT: Yeah. It was a wire story this afternoon I read, because of ratings, the news magazines were once the most popular outlet for the entertainment divisions of news in terms of scheduling. No more. Dan Rather's been associated with that show. I'm sure he'll still have a choice place at CBS, but it won't be "60 Minutes II."

KING: What's going on in the business, Tim?

RUSSERT: Well, it's an interesting time, it really is. You know, when I grew up and when Big Russ had that little flickering black and white TV set, 174 Woodside Avenue in South Buffalo, where we used to watch Jackie Gleason together and "Meet the Press" together, the June Taylor Dancers, there was NBC, CBS and ABC was just starting out. At 6:30 you wanted to watch Uncle Walter or Huntley and Brinkley.

Now my son comes home and jacks up the cable or jacks up the satellite dish. He's got 300 stations to choose from. The information spectrum has exploded. And if he doesn't like anything on those 300 channels, he goes on his Internet. And he's got the whole world at his fingertips.

Larry, when Bill Clinton became president of the United States, 1992, there were 50 pages on the World Wide Web. There are now 5 billion and growing. Take magazines. There was "Time," "Newsweek," "U.S. News & World Report." Walk through an airport now, there's a niche magazine on everything.

So, it's all having an effect. I think the network audience is by any standards is getting smaller and yet it is still one of the largest places to reach out to 5 million or 10 million people.

KING: Can you forecast tomorrow, though, with blogging and technology? Can you actually tell me what it's going to be like?

RUSSERT: No. But the one thing I do know is that we'll be here. You know, the notion that network news was dead and was written 20 years ago. I have a few that I think has born out to be true. That is when cable, the three news channels came on, led by CNN some 25 years ago now, I think, they complement what I do.

If people watch you interview Donald Rumsfeld or Condoleezza Rice on a Wednesday or a Thursday, they'll say, that's interesting. I want to know more about that person. And a few weeks later they'll say, I want to watch them on "Meet the Press" or vice versa. I think it's is important that people now have an opportunity to know more about their country and more about their leaders, more about the world than ever before.

KING: And no comment doesn't work anymore.

RUSSERT: I don't think so. You can try to stonewall, but it doesn't work. Because we are everywhere. Probably sometimes, we're places we shouldn't be.

And sometimes it's a cumulative effect. You know, when you look up in the newsroom and you see all the news -- cable news channels and all the networks covering the same story, the same footage, it is overwhelming. It's a tidal wave. We have to always remember that the person back home in their living room and kitchen is just watching one channel. And so we have to tell the story in a meaningful and understandable way and in a respectful way.

KING: Well said. We'll be right back with more from Tim Russert. Get some updates on the news, take your calls. "Big Russ and Me" is now out in trade paperback. And a week from Sunday, it will be on the New York times best seller list in paperbacks. And he's doing another book. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Tim Russert. The book "Big Russ and "Me is out in trade paperback.

Let's cover some political bases. What's going to happen with this filibuster fight?

RUSSERT: Well, they're negotiating still tonight, Larry, but it's very difficult to see how these two sides come together when the Republicans want every judge confirmed and the Democrats want the right to filibuster anyone they please.

You know, there's a lot at stake here. In the words of Senator George Allen, the Republican from Virginia, we're setting the table for the Supreme Court nominee, and that, meaning that if President Bush puts forward a Supreme Court nominee when there's a vacancy, rather than needing 60 votes to be confirmed to break a filibuster, you would only need 51 and that's a huge difference when you have 55 Republican senators.

KING: Is this a classic case of whichever side the other, or whoever was in power would be arguing the other side?

RUSSERT: Yes, in many ways. You know, the Democrats, under Robert Byrd's leadership, the majority leader, changed the filibuster from 67 senators present and voting to a firm 60 senators in the U.S. Senate. What the Democrats will say is different, however, is that it is doing away with a minority voice because you're reducing the number to a simple majority and the controlling party will always have the upper hand. The Republicans will counter saying, this is just for judicial nominations, not for legislation. Democrats counter saying, well, that's the next thing you'll want to go after.

So, it's going to be -- if it passes, the so-called nuclear option, Larry, it will change the temper, the tone, of the Senate for a long, long time to come. I've been covering Washington, and I remember Barry Goldwater and Hubert Humphrey having vigorous debates and then going in the cloakroom and talking together and having a drink together. That doesn't happen anymore. It is near poisonous.

KING: Yes. And long-term impact? Will it impact 2008?

RUSSERT: Yes, I think it could, and, I -- you know, it's hard to figure out which way. The one thing I do know that has happened over the last couple weeks is that NBC News, in a new poll tonight, which shows that only 33 percent of the American people give Congress a favorable rating, one out of three.

And people, voters over 60, it is down to 19 percent. The off -- wrong track -- off on the wrong track, 35 percent of the country only thinks the country's on a right track. So the economy, I think, the war in Iraq, the debate over Social Security -- right now the voters across the country are very uneasy about what's going on in Washington.

KING: Does this look like a mortal lock for Hillary to you? The nomination, I mean?

RUSSERT: Well -- yes, I understand. I don't think anything's ever a mortal lock, but I do believe that we will have anywhere from six to eight candidates running in each party. It will be the first presidential election since 1956 where an incumbent president or vice president is not on the ticket of a major party, assuming Vice President Cheney doesn't run. It's that wide open.

Now, if you talk to the Democrats, privately they will say, and the potential candidates, they will say that Hillary Clinton's the front-runner. She can raise more money. She has a political team in place that already has been involved in two successful presidential campaigns, but they are all positioning themselves because, as we know, front-runners sometimes stumble. But she's the hands-on favorite on the Democratic side.

KING: How do you react to the statement that the two most popular Republicans may be Giuliani and McCain, but they can't win the primaries?

RUSSERT: Well, certainly in the popularity polls and name recognition, that's exactly the two people who lead them, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain. It is interesting, however, in a Republican primary, what happens. In a state like New Hampshire where independent voters are allowed to vote in the major party primaries, John McCain beat George Bush in 2000 by 18 points because independents crossed over and voted for McCain. When he went down to South Carolina, where only Republicans can vote, he lost.

And issues that -- for example, Rudy Giuliani's pro-abortion rights, pro-gay right, pro-gun control -- those are difficult issues for a Republican candidate in a Republican primary. Giuliani's supporters say, however, in an eight-candidate field, he will be perceived as America's mayor after September 11th and that will trump his positions on those controversial issues.

KING: And how would we eat up a Clinton/Giuliani race for the presidency?

RUSSERT: You know, we almost had it for the Senate, and then Mayor Giuliani got prostate cancer -- I'm often asked that, or Hillary Clinton versus Condoleezza Rice.

KING: She says, absolutely no.

RUSSERT: Yes, well, let's see what happens. What if vice president Cheney decided to step aside and let her become vice president, then what happens? We're just talking here.

KING: Ah, ha, yes, I know.

RUSSERT: Bottom line, Larry, the -- as I rub my hands. I'm always asked about a bias in the -- the only bias I have is a great story.

KING: You're not kidding.

RUSSERT: Bring it -- just bring it on.

KING: I've never seen anyone go into a newsroom and say, let's get this guy.


KING: Give me a good story and we'll cover it.

RUSSERT: Right. Either side, either party. KING: We'll be right back. "Big Russ and Me" is in trade paperback. You won't read a better book. Plus, want to talk about your calls, too, with one of my favorite people, Tim Russert. Don't go away.


TOM BROKAW: We've got -- Tim gets his board out, 565 votes, the Secretary of State is the one who is saying this, and that's probably why we're not seeing the governor appearing in Austin, yet. And they know it in Austin.

RUSSERT: Well, but the vice president made his concession call, and the usual practice is to let him go first.

BROKAW: Right. And there's no Constitutional requirement that if you've made the concession call that you lose, as we learn tonight.

RUSSERT: There can be a second call, is that what you're saying?

BROKAW: It doesn't have any application when a network projects something.



KING: We're back with Tim Russert.

Let's discuss anonymous sources. Supposing someone that you highly respect, know a long time, is a general. He tells you, "I saw military men stuff the Koran down the toilet." Do you run with that?

RUSSERT: You need to check that one. As we found out from "Newsweek," a story that is so sensitive that you know could have worldwide repercussions must be checked out, must be vetted.

I'd would take that story. I would obviously go to the Pentagon. I'd go to the White House because it's that serious of an issue.

Larry, we've had a lot of stories at NBC that we were prepared to go on the air with and we were warned that it would affect national security. And so you're cautious about that because you don't want to jeopardize the lives of men and women on the ground.

Sometimes you find out a week or two later that you were misled, that you were being waved off the story for political reasons, not for security reasons. Then you do the story.

Other times you never report it. And it's the hardest thing in the world to spend a lot of time to invest your energy to come up with the story, then the last thread doesn't check out or you realize that you really could be jeopardizing American men and women on the ground and you hold the story.

KING: And what's the deciding point? RUSSERT: It's a hard one. It truly is. You have to sit around in a newsroom and in the executive offices, debate it, discuss it and say to yourself, look yourself in the mirror and say: If this story was reported -- for example, there was a big debate years ago that if you were a reporter out in the field and you became aware that there was an ambush scheduled, planned against American troops, would you hold that story and wait for it to happen in order to report it or would you advise the American military?

I don't have any problem with that. I'd advise the American military in a second, in a nanosecond. We're journalists, but we're American citizens first.

On the other hand, when you come across a story where someone in the Pentagon is providing information that you do check out, you realize that it confirm in an ironclad way that a senior official had been misleading the country, I think you have an obligation to report it and all the consequences that flow from that as long as you're not putting people's lives at risk at that particular moment.

And I can cite example after example where that has been done and people will say: Please don't do that, but you realize they're trying to protect themselves politically and not the security of the nation.

KING: If it was just like a six-sentence item in "Periscope" like a throw-away page...

RUSSERT: Yes. That's the problem. You always have to be -- you know, more and more in magazines they'll have the "Periscope" items the up/down arrows or the style section gossip page. You need the same standards. You've got to get information and check it and check it and check it. John chancellor, a great newsman for NBS News, my first day on the job at NBC 20 years ago, he said: You say your mother loves you; check it out. He assumed nothing.

KING: Does Mr. Bolton survive?

RUSSERT: My guess is that Mr. Bolton squeaks by a confirmation vote in the Senate, unless something else comes forward, new information that we don't know about now.

The one thing that could sidetrack that is if the judicial nomination battle blows up and the Republicans win and stop all filibusters against judicial nominations, might the Democrats say: OK, fine, you got your judges but you're not getting Mr. Bolton; we're going to filibuster John Bolton.

They haven't made a decision on that yet. It's an interesting issue, an interesting debate because in light of Iraq and the absence of weapons of mass destruction, it's going to be the ambassador to the United Nations who is going to have to present the case in large part about North Korea, about Iran, based on American intelligence.

And that's why many Democrats have said: Is this the best man to do it? Republicans counter saying: Yes, because he's blunt-spoken and, besides, the U.N. needs someone who can go in there and shake the place up. Good debate.

KING: Speaking of that, Tim, what in the world -- North Korea, Iran, Iraq -- what concerns you the most? What is the most imminent threat to our well-being, do you think?

RUSSERT: I think, for me, I say a prayer every night for President Musharraf of Pakistan. I think that situation in Pakistan is so volatile, the assassination attempts on him were so close.

Pakistan already has a nuclear bomb. And there are a lot of members of the ISI, the Pakistani CIA, who are extremely sympathetic to the Taliban and to Al Qaeda.

And the worst thing in the world would be is if Mr. Musharraf was assassinated and the government was overthrown and some of those pro- Taliban, Al Qaeda leaders got control of Pakistan.

Because next door is India. And India has the nuclear bomb and they wouldn't tolerate that. And in a flashpoint you could have a war between Pakistan and India. I don't mean to alarm people, but it's something you have to think about.

Also North Korea, Larry. We've been all focused on Iraq over the last three or four years. In that time period, North Korea has developed more nuclear bombs. By the end of this year, they'll probably have 10. The Defense Intelligence Agency said they can miniaturize them and they have a missile that can strike the West Coast of the United States.

We all celebrated the end of the Cold War. We thought the missiles had been diverted, the tips pointed down, those days were over, no more under the desk saying our prayers.

Guess what? This is one dangerous world.

KING: We'll be back with more of Tim Russert and your phone calls again.

"Big Russ and Me" is now out in trade paperback. It will be on the best-seller list in The New York Times" a week from Sunday. He's doing a follow-up. He wants to hear your stories about you and your father.

You can get in tough with that through

By the way, Howard Dean is his guest Sunday night on "Meet the Press."

And we'll be back with your phone calls. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Tim Russert. By the way, I can't emphasize enough, "Big Russ and Me" is one great read.

Let's go to calls. Chicago, hello. Chicago, you there?

CALLER: Yes. Good evening, Larry.

: Go ahead.

CALLER: I like your show very much.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: Mr. Russert, a real pleasure to be able to speak with you. I admire your work so much. You're a man of a lot of integrity and authenticity. A couple things -- I can't wait to read your book. My father, who will be 87 on June 8th, past lieutenant, junior grade on an LST (ph) in the South Pacific and his LST was one of the ones that picked up Jack Kennedy when he was injured.

KING: Hey, write him. Write -- check in on the website and write to Tim. What's the question?

CALLER: My question is, regarding the "Newsweek" retraction, it appears that the media, the British media, "The New York Times," also the International Red Cross had all reported previously on abuse as far as the Koran is concerned in our prisons down in Guantanamo. Do you feel that "Newsweek" was especially bullied to make that retraction? And also, if something like this is happening, what should we be doing to prevent it?

KING: OK, Tim.

RUSSERT: Well, obviously, "Newsweek" got caught in a very terrible, difficult situation because, in Pakistan and Afghanistan, some of the Islamic leaders took it and began to wave it around. They countered initially that the Pentagon did not wave them off the story and it played out for several days before there was any official response from our own government.

But, all that being said, a story of that sensitivity that could have the repercussions it did, you just can't simply go with one source. You have to vet it in a very, very heavy way. Mike Isikoff, the reporter of that story, is a terrific reporter and those who think that perhaps he's ideological should know that he's one of the lead reporters in that whole impeachment of President Clinton.

KING: He broke the Lewinsky story, right?

RUSSERT: Exactly. Yes, he doesn't have a dog in those kinds of philosophical-political-ideological fights. But in this story "Newsweek" learned a very valuable lesson and it's being played out in front of the whole world. It's one that all of us must learn: you cannot be too careful when you are writing a story that has the potential of affecting life and death around the world.

KING: Scottsdale, Arizona, for Tim Russert. Hello.

CALLER: Hello. Thank you for taking my call.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: Does Mr. Russert think that the fact that the news is now managed by this administration has caused people to stop watching the news.

KING: You believe it's managed -- you think it's managed, Tim? Every administration tries to manage it, don't they?

RUSSERT: Oh, do they ever. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and George Bush -- every president tries to get their story out, most favorable to them, and sometimes they'll find forums or vehicles that are friendly to them, in terms of rallies, inviting only Republicans or only Democrats. But you work through that and you work around it. Your job is different. Your job is to try to find the best you can, the truth and report it, about Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives and let the chips fall.

KING: Do you have to be cynical?

RUSSERT: No, but you have to be skeptical. And I respect politicians. I do. I think they give up an awful lot to enter that particular profession. It is an honorable profession, but in the same light, these are people who are extremely ambitious, and they're extremely self-centered, and they want to be re-elected. And we are surrogates for the American people.

Very few places in world have the kind of protections, particularly the Constitutional protections we have in this country as a free press, and we have an obligation for all those men and women who work hard all week long in real jobs, that when they turn on CNN or turn on NBC or pick up a newspaper or turn on the radio they realize that someone else is working as hard as they are, trying to get to the truth. And it is not an easy job, but you know what, Larry, it's the best one you could ever have. It's a vocation being a journalist.

KING: Yes, you're not kidding. Wichita Falls, Texas. Hello.

CALLER: I've been following your conversation very carefully and I see how you are defending the media for it to be accurate, and report with clarity and truth. But how do you think the so-called nuclear option, if it may occur, how is that going to affect the truth that we find, that we seek, in the media today?

RUSSERT: Well, we'll report what happens in the Senate. If, in fact the filibuster is done away with for judicial nominations, it won't mean there won't be a debate about those nominations, but it will mean that they will, in fact, be approved by a simple majority. However, I do think that this will have an effect upon the legislative calendar and other political nominations by the president. We can't stop reporting.

You know, people often ask me, why don't we have political conventions that are meaningful anymore? And I will say because the parties decided to have primaries. That's not the media's decision. We cover what the parties decide. We cover what the president decides. We cover what Congress decides. It's not the media that in any way establishes the political direction or the legislative flow in this country. It's the politicians.

KING: Why are we such an easy target?

RUSSERT: Well, shoot the messenger. Both sides will go out of their way to say, well, you know, that's the media. But Larry, we can't let ourselves be in a situation where we're trying to win a popularity contest.

Every Sunday morning, I will interview somebody, and if it's a Republican or a Democrat, I'll get a thousand e-mails and there will be hundreds saying, you left-wing lapdog and a 100 saying you right- wing madman, and it will be the same question to the same guest. People look at things through their own ideological prism. We now are so divided politically that people want to confirm their own beliefs, and when they watch an interview, where you're asking tough questions of a Democrat or Republican, it bothers them.

But when they take a deep breath and they step back, they'll say, you know what? That's what we really need in this country. You can't make tough decisions unless you answer tough questions. I've been all over the world. I've to be a lot of countries where you pick up a newspaper and turn on the TV and it is nothing but happy news. You know what? You don't want to live there.

KING: We'll be back with more of Tim Russert. "Big Russ and Me" is in paperback. Don't go away.


KING: Our guest, good friend, great journalist, hell of an author, my man Tim Russert. The book "Big Russ and Me."

Salem, Oregon, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry. Thank you for taking my call.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: Mr. Russert, what is your take on the 24/7 saturation coverage of one story -- Terri Schiavo comes to mind, the polls, the runaway bride. It seems that some networks, and certainly the cable newspeople, it is like nothing else is happening on Earth for weeks at a time. Is there anything that can be done about that?

RUSSERT: I think it's a real problem. I really do share your concern. Cable news viewer, I didn't cover any of those issues on my show in any great detail.

I was intrigued by the political fallout of the Schiavo case and why a Democratic senator didn't stand up and offer a contrary view the first weekend and why the president flew back from his ranch and so forth. But I do think that people in newsrooms, whether it be cable news or networks or newspapers have to step back and say, if we are totally giving saturation coverage to that story, what else are we missing? And I think that's a very legitimate question.

I understand competitive race between the networks and the need for ratings and all that. But sometimes, frankly, what I try to do on "Meet the Press" is counter program. When other people were doing O.J. Simpson way back when, I was doing something much different. Concluding that if you wanted to watch O.J., there are a lot of places you can find it. And I was trying to be something different.

KING: But you are once a week on a Sunday morning. You weren't Thursday afternoon on an all-news network.

RUSSERT: Oh, and I didn't have people yelling at me saying, what are you doing? You know, you've got to be covering this story. It's what people care about. They're hungry, they're thirsty for it. But I do think that the viewer has a legitimate point, Larry. We have to be careful that we don't cover one story, smother it to the exclusion of everything else.

KING: Why was the airplane landing, almost landing in Washington turned out to be a trainer pilot, why did that run on and on once it was established that it was just a simple guy off course?

RUSSERT: Yes. I think people obviously wanted to find out how it happened, and how official Washington responded to a potential crisis post-September 11. But I do think after a certain point people said, OK, we know what happened, we know what the reaction was, it is time to move on.

And I think we have to always be aware. The fact is, we do have 135,000 men and women on the ground in Iraq. We do have a big debate about Social Security. We do have the situation where half the kids who are going to high school in the inner cities in New York and around the country are not graduating. I mean, there are some real issues out there and we can't ignore them.

KING: Petaluma, California, for Tim Russert. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. Hi, Tim.



CALLER: Tim, I will see you in Marin next year. Are you going to be speaking, so I'm looking forward to that.

And -- my question is you created a wonderful opportunity for daughters and sons to share their stories. I'm just wondering about -- you know, I'm a big believer in giving back to the community. Is there any sort of giving back to all these people that are sharing their stories with you for your follow-up book? RUSSERT: Absolutely. What I've done, and what I do with my first book and the second book as well, I'm going to give considerable contributions, donations to the Boys and Girls Club of Washington, D.C.

It's a cause I'm deeply involved in, care about passionately. A place where kids can come home from school and have a tutor, a mentor, a computer coach, have a snack, do their homework, then play some sports or dance or music or whatever.

And I have witnessed personally, stories of these young people going on, finishing high school, going on to college, med school, law school. And so rather than pay a trivial royalty to people, what I did with the first book was say to the Boys and Girls Club, Big Russ was so good to me and my mom, and my teachers were such important mentors, I was blessed. And I want to give the opportunity to other young people all across this country to be blessed. And I really do believe -- and you'll see that on the Web site when you read the letter from me.

You know, Larry, you have to -- I remember the last time we talked, we talked about is there a difference between Jewish guilt and Catholic shame. We concluded there is none. And I think about that so often, because of the universality of people's love and affection for their dads. You'll appreciate this because Jewish families love to eat catholic families love to eat. The "Big Fat Greek Wedding."

There's a chapter in my book called You Got to Eat, food. And my dad said, you made a mistake in your book. Dad, I checked everything six times. He said, no you say that -- the quote is you got to eat. That's only half the quote. I got that from Dr. Maddy Burke. You got to you eat if you're going to drink. So, I'm correcting it in the next book, dad.

KING: There he is, Big Russ.

By the way, I did it two years ago. Tim will be the speaker at class day at Harvard on June 8. I did it 2003. You're going to have a lot of fun. It's the day before commencement. It is very loose and you'll have a great time.

RUSSERT: That's what I'm told. That the students select you. I look forward to going there. An awful lot of fun.

You know, there's so much great things going on, Larry. There's another organization I know a little about that's going to have a mobile recording studio tomorrow morning in front of the Library of Congress. It is called And you go there with your father or your mother or your baseball coach. And you have an oral history. You talk to each other about what they went through and what they learned in life.

It -- I tell you, it's a revolution as to what's going on. And Tom Brokaw's book "The Greatest Generation," I hope "Big Russ and Me" and a variety of books like that, what we've been able to do is get the country talking to one another. Hey dad, tell us about what happened in the war. Hey Dad, tell about what did you learned from working two jobs. Hey mom, when you said we had to finish our homework, we couldn't trade our pencil for a fork until our homework was done, thank you for doing that.

It is so important -- when we have this red state versus blue state, to take a breath, step back and say we really are one pretty big and united country when it comes to thinking about the role our parents play and the way we feel about our kids.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Tim Russert. Don't go away.


RUSSERT (voice-over): Today just about all of the Buffalo smokestacks have given way to modern companies like (inaudible), which builds parts for satellites on what they call a campus, not a plant.

Here, the grandchildren of Buffalo's world war II Vets build the technology of the 21st century. All of this possible because of men like my dad. With strong family values and a work ethic, they shaped our destiny. We stand on their shoulders.

KING: In our next segment, I want to ask Tim about a Bobblehead thing, but let's take another call.

Wyoming, Michigan. Hello?

CALLER: I'd like to say what an honor and pleasure it is to speak to two of the greatest men on TV.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: And even with all the technology nowadays, Tim Russert is the greatest thing on Election Night. Election Night isn't worth watching anymore without Tim Russert.

And I would just like to know, with all the technology, please tell us you're never going to get rid of your dry erase board.

RUSSERT: You know, that's an interesting story.

Thanks, Larry.

Thank you, ma'am.

Election Night 2000, we suddenly realized that it would be such a close race, the Electoral College was going to come into play. I realized that most Americans hadn't heard about that since civics lessons back in 7th or 8th grade. So I took out the back of a legal pad and started writing things down.

My dad has on his dresser a pad. Any time there's anything serious, he takes a piece of that paper, sits at the kitchen table, writes out his utility bills, his taxes, tuition, whatever it is. He always says: Make it understandable. Make it meaningful. Keep it simple. I could hear his voice. And then they realized when the legal pad got filled up, they threw me a grease board. Someone ran across the street to Staples or some place.

I started working a small grease board. I filled that up, and they threw me a bigger one. I realized it was down to eight state, two states, then I wrote down: Florida, Florida, Florida.

Larry, you'll love this.

After it was all over, we were out all night long -- 6:00, 7:00 in the morning. Finally the next night I got home. I walked in an my son said to me: Dad, you know, those boards are really amazing. I would like to have that. And I said: Well, the Newseum has called for one, the museum dedicated to journalists. I said I do have another one and I'm really honored, Luke, that you would want this memory of your dad's journalistic career. He said: You know what that thing's worth on E-bay?


KING: We'll be back and I'll talk to him about a Bobblehead and another thing we have in common. Don't go away.


KING: We have another thing in common in addition to (inaudible). When the Buffalo Bisons opened their beautiful new stadium in the '90s, I had the honor of throwing out the first pitch that day with Senator Patrick Moynihan. We threw out the first pitches. Beautiful stadium.

Now on June 5th, Tim Russert will throw out the first pitch at the Buffalo Bison's game. It is now Dunn Tire Park. I think it was Ridge Park or something.

The first 4,000 fans get a Tim Russert Bobblehead doll. How does that make you feel? You made it, man.

RUSSERT: Well, I've gotten more interest from my family about the Bobblehead than any interview I've ever done. On the mound is going to be Big Russ, myself and my son. So my poor wife, who slaves for "Vanity Fair" magazine, will be in the stands or perhaps even covering her latest story for "Vanity Fair." But this is going to be a guys' event on the mound.

KING: That's a beautiful ballpark by the way, a great minor league park.

RUSSERT: The Bisons are a great team. They won it all, AAA. It's very exciting. Some day my Buffalo Bills are going to win that Super Bowl, Larry.

KING: Your lips to God. One more call. Barberton, Ohio.

CALLER: Hi, Larry.

I'd like to thank you and Tim for taking my call.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: My question is: why is there so much anger, disdain and discord among the Democrats and the Republicans? I seem to think it is more in the House. Politics is, of course, compromise. Why can't people get along? We're paying them. And they should work for us.

KING: Henry Clay could not exist today.

RUSSERT: It's a lesson that we were taught all through life about finding common-ground consensus. But here's what's happened. There are 435 members in the house of representatives. All about 40 of those seats are so-called safe seats. That they're either a Democratic seat or a Republican seat. You have no threat about losing a general election if you have one of those seats.

The only political concern you have is a primary from your right, if you're a Republican, or from your left if you're a Democrat. So you're always worrying about being ideologically pure to avoid a party primary.

There is no reward for reaching across the aisle and finding common ground and consensus because then you will polarize or antagonize your party base. It's a real problem. It's a real dilemma and one we have to work through otherwise we'll never get anything done.

This country is one that built the greatest education system in the world. We had vaccinations that have been invented and distributed. We put a man on the moon. We won a war. We won the cold war. We know how to do things when we come together.

After September 11th, Democrats and Republicans on the steps of the Capitol spontaneously singing "God Bless America." We united. There's no reason we can't do that on the big issues confronting our country now. We just have to be willing to make that step.

KING: You got a working title for the new book?

RUSSERT: Well, it's book of dads, daughters and sons, lessons of life or your dad and you. "Daughters and Sons," "Lessons in Life," something along those lines.

I just want for people to know that these letters, these sharings of deepest thoughts about their relationship with their fathers are so important, important for them to remember to put down, share with their own children.

Larry, I had one letter the other day, a kid said to me...

KING: We've got to run.

RUSSERT: ... my dad never preached but he let me watch his life. That's how I learned to be a man.

KING: If you want to get in touch, it's

Again, the book "Big Russ and Me" is now available in trade paperback.

We're out of here.

Would you do the honors, Tim, of tossing it to our friend in New York?

RUSSERT: To my fellow baseball fan, Aaron Brown.

AARON BROWN, HOST: Thank you, Mr. Russert. I'm a big fan of yours.

Larry and Tim, we like to think we know the people in our lives, really know them, a colleague, a spouse, a public figure.


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