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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Journalist Tim Russert is Remembered
Aired June 13, 2008 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, the shocking death of Tim Russert today. Journalists who revered him still coming to grips with the news. Politicians who respected him offering heartfelt tributes. Those who knew him are here -- Barbara Walters, Ted Koppel, John Edwards, Bob Schieffer, Wolf Blitzer and others -- to honor the memory of one of the really good guys, next on LARRY KING LIVE.
This is a sad day and I'll have some personal recollections later.
Ted Koppel will be joining us shortly.
Kicking things off in Washington is Wolf Blitzer, the anchor of CNN's SITUATION ROOM, moderator of "LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER." you could say, a competitor of the late Tim Russert. It's hard to say that, late Tim Russert.
Paul Begala, CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist.
Joining us on the phone is Barbara Walters of ABC News, co-host of "The View."
Barbara, was -- I guess shocked is obvious.
What was your first -- after shock, what was your reaction?
BARBARA WALTERS, ABC NEWS: Well, I think there are three aspects of it. First of all, the terrible shock of it. And for journalists, he was the ultimate journalist. He was not just on the air, but he was also the head of NBC's Washington bureau. And, I mean, we knew him as a man of authority. We never knew what his political opinions were. He kept them to himself. He was a journalist who made us proud.
The second thing I couldn't help thinking of was the family. I had just been interviewed by him less than a month ago. And when the cameras were off, he talked about his enormous pride in his son Luke, his only child, because Luke was graduating from Boston University. And Tim had been with his wife Maureen and Luke in Italy celebrating this graduation. Maureen got the news over there. And the heartache for her and for his elderly father, I mean to lose a son, I think about it in the most personal terms.
And then, third, one has to think, he was 58. He was so young to most of us.
And what does this make us think? And people all over the country are going to miss Tim. It's not just us. So we have to think, do we work too hard, do we enjoy ourselves that much?
Is there any kind of a message in this?
Because Tim had no way of knowing. He was on the treadmill in the morning. He seemed in such good health.
What does this say about our own lives?
KING: Very well put, Barbara.
Hang with us for a couple of minutes.
Wolf Blitzer, do you also get a personal sense of I'm in this same business, I work 24 hours a day, it seems, it could it happen to me?
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Sure. You know, the first thing you think of -- you know, I remember just few hours ago, Larry, when somebody came into my office and said, you know what, there's a rumor out there that Tim Russert just died of a heart attack. And I said that's impossible. Maybe it's his father. His father is very, very old.
And Big Russ, as they call him in Buffalo -- but Tim, that's out of the question. And that was my initial reaction was just how could that possibly be?
And, of course, within a few moments, we knew what was going on and we heard the news. And, you know, we knew about it for some time, Larry, but we decided weren't going to put it -- we weren't going to go on the air and report that news first. We were going to wait for NBC News to break into programming. And Tom Brokaw eventually did.
We decided that we didn't want to -- you know, we didn't know if Luke, his young son who had just graduated from Boston College -- and they were on a trip in Italy just until last night. We didn't know if Luke knew, if Maureen Orth, the writer for "Vanity Fair," his wife, if she knew. We didn't know where they were.
And Big Russ, we knew that, you know, he was just moved from his home by Tim to a facility in Buffalo.
We didn't want to tell any of the family that Tim Russert had died.
BLITZER: So we decided to wait. And we waited. We were ready. We had all of our ducks in a row, as they say. And then once Tom Brokaw went on the air and reported the shocking news -- and you could hear the quiver in Tom Brokaw's voice, how nervous and upset he was -- all of us were. It was only then that we at CNN decided that, you know what, we'll go on the air and tell our viewers, as well. Because this is not the kind of story, you know, you want to be first on. You want to be responsible and occasionally, Larry, you know, we do the right thing, those of us who are journalists.
KING: Right. That was the right thing.
Paul Begala, journalistically, where do you put him?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, there's just none better. You know, nobody was more prepared. Nobody was more thorough. Nobody was more decent. Nobody was tougher.
If you could survive an interview with Russert, you had made it. You know, I remember the worst of the Lewinsky scandal, Larry, the -- I was a White House official. And I was invited on "Meet The Press" as a command performance from Brother Tim.
And he just beat me about the head and shoulders. Thirteen times in a row he asked me, now, who is this young woman, Monica Lewinsky, and what is the president's relationship with her?
Of course, I had no answer -- no good answer, at least. So I counterattacked. I said well, you know, by the way, NBC News looks like they're the recipient of illegal leaks from Ken Starr. And I said Ken Starr was corrupt in the Lord Acton sense, that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
It was a tough, brutal interview. And, you know, a couple of days later, I got a handwritten note from Tim Russert that said, Brother Paul, we both did our job.
You know, he treated you with respect even -- you know, he thought I was full of beans. I don't think he was particularly impressed with -- why how I was handling the Lewinsky scandal. But, you know, he treated me with respect and with real decency. And even though considered him a friend, he didn't go easy on me, that's for sure.
KING: Barbara Walters, that desk, that "Meet The Press" seat, how is that fillable?
Who is going to have to do that?
WALTERS: Well, you know, when I talked to some of the people at NBC -- because, remember, I lived and worked there for so many years. I think probably Tom Brokaw will do the program this Sunday, which I would assume would be a retrospective. But everybody is going to want that seat. And they're going to have a hard time at NBC trying to decide who possibly can take that place. Not only that, they have to have somebody to head the Washington bureau. This was not just a job and name only. He did the hiring. He did the firing.
But I wanted to add to what Paul was talking about, because when he did "Meet The Press," he was as tough and as straight and had every quote and he did his homework. But when he did his Sunday show, there was no one who could be easier, more charming, give you a break as he did with me. He was a very different person. Look, I'm the competition. I'm at ABC.
Why should he try help me or try to help me to sell my memoir or to do an hour's interview with me?
Because he had that kind of kindness, in addition to the toughness. And he had a wonderful smile and a wonderful twinkle. And I said to Wolf -- and I didn't want to hurt his feelings that when Wolf and I talked at a different point -- I said, you know, like you, Wolf, he wasn't just enough pretty face. You know, he didn't look the way you imagine that the TV anchor will look.
And he had so many friends in Washington.
WALTERS: He was a very easygoing, funny, charming guy when he got off the grilling.
KING: You're so right. Having guested with him myself on that show he did, his own show, interview show, I can double -- double add what you've said and say absolutely. He was a delight.
Barbara, thanks so much for joining us.
We really appreciate you chiming in.
WALTERS: Thank you, Larry. We're all grieving. But as I said, I think there will be a lot of -- a lot of flags at half mast all over the country because people so respected him. He was the best of us.
Thank you, Larry.
KING: Thank you.
Barbara Walters, ABC News.
Still ahead, Ted Koppel, Senator John Edwards, Bob Schieffer and Madeleine Albright.
Wolf Blitzer and Paul Begala remain.
Stay with us.
KING: Paul Begala and Wolf Blitzer remain.
Joining us now in Washington, Ted Koppel, the managing editor of the Discovery Channel and the former anchor of ABC News "Nightline" and one of the great figures in the news history in this country.
And in Chapel Hill, North Carolina is former Senator John Edwards, himself a former candidate for the 2008 Democratic nomination. And he was the Democratic vice presidential candidate in 2004. Ted, what are your -- what's your reaction to all of this?
TED KOPPEL, FORMER ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Well, I'm not going to give you anything terribly original, Larry. It's -- the reaction is sort of stunned. You know, Tim was still so young. He was -- it's not enough to say he was at the peak of his career, because that sort of suggests that there was only the downhill left.
He had, you know, he had a good 20 years left -- or should have had a good 20 years left. So the notion that he is gone, I mean it just happened without warning. And I think it's going to take a few days to sink in.
KING: Well said.
Senator Edwards, I know you've been interviewed by Tim.
What are you thoughts about Tim Russert?
JOHN EDWARDS, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, it's sad. I mean it's a sense of loss. You know, and not just for journalism and for people in Washington, but for the American people who I think depended on this man religiously to get to the truth. You know, as politicians are not want to recognize, we sometimes try to avoid questions and avoid hard issues. And it was impossible with him. He was the kind of guy who -- not just in an interview, Larry, but every place he ever -- I saw him, whether it was Iowa or New Hampshire or anyplace else in America, he just filled up the room. He was a powerful presence for America.
KING: What was it like, John, to be interviewed by him?
EDWARDS: Tough. I mean he was tough. I mean you -- if you could get through his interview, you'd be fine anywhere. And you knew that sort of trying to skate through, dance without answering the question, would -- or at least if you didn't know it, you figured it out pretty quickly. I did. It never worked with him. I mean you eventually were going to have to be honest and truthful, own up to if you had screwed up in the past. You were going to have to be willing to say that you had, to say what you really stood for, what you believed in.
I mean, otherwise it didn't work. And he would get through all the superficial politician talk to what really mattered for people. And one of the things -- one of the things that I always felt from him was, you know, because of his dad and the way he grew up and his sort of down to earth nature, he could sort of cut through all the bull and get right to what really mattered. He had real respect for normal Americans who had to decide who the president of the United States was going to be.
KING: Wolf, what was he like purely as a competitor?
You were a competitor of his every Sunday.
BLITZER: Oh, he was fiercely competitive. He wanted the best guests. He wanted the most exclusive guests. And he fought hard. He was always trying to book the president or the vice president or the secretary of state or the presidential candidates. He wanted them exclusively.
And, you know, I remember recent times, he really wanted Senator Hillary Clinton on the show. And, you know, he would keep a running tab -- it's been 30 weeks, 60 weeks, a year, two years, whatever it was. And he would press and press and press. And he would eventually get those guests, because he worked at it all the time. And he was just, you know, a very, very tough competitor.
But you know what, Larry?
He made all of us better in the process, because he raised the standard. And, as a result, we had to work harder and we became better as a result.
KING: Well said.
Ted, was -- he was sort of like an everyman, wasn't he?
KOPPEL: Well, he was that and yet he was also -- he was something of a pioneer. I think people forget, Larry, that, you know, "Meet The Press" has been around for -- sometimes it seems like generations. But it really has been around for decades. And turning that into a fresh, vibrant, new broadcast was not all that easy.
When Tim first came on the air, he was up against David Brinkley, who, of course, was one of broadcasting's great icons and was doing the Sunday morning show "This Week" on ABC. And he was number one.
And it took Tim a number of years -- and it didn't happen really until after David left. But he, over the course of those years, created a new style of interviewing. And when I say a new style, I mean everybody does it now. Wolf does it. If I were still doing "Nightline," I'd be doing it, where you take a quote -- John Edwards, I'm sure, has suffered through this. Where you take a quote of something that a politician or some other guest said six months ago or nine months ago, you put it up on the screen and then you force them to sit there while you read through that entire quote. And then you make them confront it.
People may not understand how different that is from the way it used to be before. But that was an innovation in news interviewing on television. And it's made a huge difference.
KING: True, Senator Edwards?
EDWARDS: Oh, yes. He actually told me one time, Larry, that his idea of the interview on Sunday morning was he was the cross-examiner. His job was not to ask easy questions and fluff questions. His job was to cross-examine, like he was a courtroom lawyer. And I tell you, he would have been a hell of a courtroom lawyer, because this guy knew how to ask questions.
But the other part of it that made him so effective is what a fine human being he was. And people sensed this. I mean, I remember one time -- I'll tell a very quick story. He called me to ask me to be on the show. This was years ago. And he knew that Elizabeth and I had lost our son Wade at the age of 16 in 1996. And I told him, I said some of Wade's old friends are coming to visit us in Washington so I'm worried about having to leave them to come do the show. He said bring them with you.
And so we brought them. They sat in the studio during the interview. And we got near the end of the show, we went to a commercial break and he said, tell those boys to come up here. And he brought them up on the set so that they could actually tell their friends they had been on national television.
I mean this was just a fine human being. He really was. Somebody that not only was effective and professional and the yardstick, really, by which all political journalists are measured, but just an extraordinary human being.
KING: Thanks for joining us, Senator.
KING: Senator John Edwards.
Ted Koppel, Wolf Blitzer, Paul Begala remain.
Our tribute to Tim Russert continues.
Bob Schieffer is coming along, as well.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MAY 23, 2006)
KING: How many years in a row now, number one?
TIM RUSSERT: Five years on Sunday morning. That's a long haul, each and every Sunday.
KING: Does that surprise you, too?
RUSSERT: It's hard work. We started off in third place amongst the networks. But there's no secret to it, Larry. It's all about preparation and trying to get the best guests talking about the most important subject. And people gravitate, I think, and watch when there's an expectation that you're going to do a professional job, whether it's a Democrat, Republican, liberal or conservative, take the other side, challenge them.
Always be civil. We don't have yelling and screaming on "Meet The Press". It's just not part of what we want to be. It's 59 years old now, the longest running television program in the history of the world.
KING: Wow! (END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Joining us from Paris is Bob Schieffer, CBS News chief Washington correspondent and moderator of "Face The Nation."
Bob, what kind of competitor was Tim Russert?
BOB SCHIEFFER, MODERATOR, "FACE THE NATION": Well, he was about as good as they get. I'll tell you, something, Larry, he went at it full steam. And I suspect that "Face The Nation" was a better broadcast because I was competing against Tim. Because when you knew Tim was over there on the other channel, there was no letting up. He was going full speed all the time and you had to go full speed to catch up with him.
But the interesting thing, I mean he had such a great respect for the news, I mean, and such a great respect for competitors that when, on those rare occasions when I did slip one by him, when I'd get that guest he was trying to get, he'd just tip his hat and go on to the next broadcast, because he knew there would be another story down the line.
And he respected others when they got scoops. And I always liked him for that. And it was one reason we became very, very close friends.
KING: Now in that area, what was he like as a friend?
SCHIEFFER: Well, he loved politics. He loved to talk about the news. Our tickets -- our seats were next to one another at the Nationals ballpark. He was a great baseball fan.
KING: I know.
SCHIEFFER: And we watched a lot of ball games together over the years, after Washington finally got a baseball team. And, you know, he just -- we spent more time talking about politics, I suspect, than we did about baseball. But he just had such a love for it and such a curiosity for it, that he was just -- it became infectious. And he was just -- just fun to be around.
I've got to tell you, Larry, I mean it's hard for me to believe that he's gone. And in a funny kind of way, I feel like part of my own life is gone because he had become very much a part of my life as a friend.
KING: Bob, when we talked to Tim in 2006, we asked him about you.
Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MAY 23, 2006)
KING: And Schieffer, who you recommended to get that job.
RUSSERT: Oh, you know, I was on the Don Imus, on the radio program, you know, I Man. And he said what's going on at CBS? This was after Dan Rather was going to leave. And I said I don't know what they're going to do. They're talking about experimentation and bringing new people in from the outside. I said, you know what I would do, I'd bring in my buddy Schieffer. He's terrific. He's a solid news guy. He does a great job on "Face The Nation." he can fill that chair. He can cover the news. He won't be surprised by anything.
And Bob called me up and said where did you get that idea?
Well, a couple of days later, he called me up and guess what, this may happen. And a lot of people were in there pulling for him inside of CBS, because they knew who he is. He is a solid guy. And he's a real honor -- brings real honor to that organization.
KING: What a job he's done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now, Bob, I would imagine that is something you will never forget.
SCHIEFFER: No, I won't. And I'll tell you something else, Larry. You know, after Tom Brokaw retired -- not many people know this, but I've told this -- I told Tim this. I said, look, Tim, I am recommending you as the anchor. And even after Dan Rather left, I said I might recommend you, Tim.
I was just trying to get him off Sunday morning on "Meet The Press".
SCHIEFFER: I was trying to get a -- somebody that wasn't quite as good at the job as he was.
But Tim and I were great friends and we shared a lot of laughs together. Went to a lot of ball games together. And I tell you something else, Tim was younger than I am, but I learned a lot from Tim Russert. The great thing about Tim, Larry -- and as an interviewer, as somebody in the same kind of business, you will appreciate this, Tim didn't just ask good questions. He listened to the answers that people gave him. And that's where he got the news.
He was a great listener and he had a great curiosity about politics. And I'm not sure we'll see anyone like him again, at least not for a while.
KING: And one other thing, Bob. One of the saddest things about all this is he's going to miss this presidential race.
SCHIEFFER: Yes. It's like you're taking part of the campaign away, in a funny kind of way. I mean Tim -- because he was such a good interviewer and had become such an influence, frankly, on politics -- and he was an influence in the right way. He wasn't pushing any candidate or any special opinion or anything, but he asked the right questions and he knew how to ask a question. And he could do it, Larry, in a way that folks outside Washington -- it was a question -- those were the questions they wanted answered.
And if he didn't ask those kind of questions, his dad, Big Russ, would call him on the phone and say, you've got to put it in the kind of language that we can understand here back home. Tim had a great love for his dad. And his dad, of course, was the great influence on his life.
SCHIEFFER: And I must say, my heart goes out to his wife Maureen and his son Luke, but also to Big Russ up there in Buffalo. No kid ever loved his dad more, Larry, than Tim Russert loved his dad.
KING: Tim and I spent almost a week together at the 1986 Super Bowl. He was there as an official of NBC News and I worked on that Super Bowl as part of a panel with Bob Costas and others, preceding the Bears and the New England Patriots.
The first time I ever met Tim Russert was at the governor's mansion in Albany, New York. My friend Herbie Cohen and I went up for dinner with our friend Mario Cuomo and who's but Mario Cuomo's chief of staff, a very young Tim Russert.
He would go on to Washington. He said, I'm going to get into your business, pointing to me. I think that's more interesting than this, which upset Mario a little. Tim Russert went on to do pretty good.
Ted Koppel is still with us. So is Paul Begala and so is my man, Wolf Blitzer.
And former secretary of state Madeleine Albright is up next.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Tim gets his board out, 565 votes.
TIM RUSSERT, FMR. NBC NEWS: I started working a small grease board. I filled that up. They threw me a bigger one. I realized it was down to eight states, then 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 and my son said to me, dad, you know, those boards are really amazing. I would like to have that. And said, well, well, the Newseum has called for one, the museum dedicated to journalists. And I said, but 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 is worth on Ebay?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Ted Koppel, I know you were at ABC. He was at NBC. Was he a friendly competitor?
KOPPEL: Oh yes, a very friendly competitor. Look, Larry, all I can tell you is about ten days ago -- I got some programs coming up on China in a few weeks. And I called Tim and I said, Tim, I want to come flog my programs on China. He said, what day do you want to come on? It was quite literally, do you want to come on "Meet the Press," of course, absolutely.
He was the most generous of competitors. Again, if he wanted a guest and you wanted the same guest, you would be fighting tooth and nail, and there wouldn't be anything generous about it. But as you heard earlier on this program, what Bob Schieffer said, if he lost to you, he was a gracious loser, just don't make it happen too often.
KING: Paul Begala, I haven't forgotten you. We'll checking back in. Wolf Blitzer remains. But we have former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on the phone. What are your memories of Mr. Russert, Madeleine?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, great memory. You know, he really -- it was such an honor to be on his show. And yet it was terrifying, I got to tell you. I think that we would all get ourselves ready and prepared to be on the show.
And I heard some of your other guests talking about these quotes that he would put up. I remember the first time it happened to me, I came back to my office and I said, you guys are not going to believe this. Tim had me debating with myself. How could I have said that. And it was a really amazing method of extracting information.
But the part about it too, Larry, was that he always let you answer and really be able to explain yourself, even if it -- sometimes it was difficult. He also was totally disarming, because he would come in first to the green room and be all friendly and smiles, and you think, OK, well, I can do this. And then it would be a really tough show, as some of your other guests have said, but fair, totally fair.
And then I've got to tell you, we shared something else. He knew that I had had a very close relationship with my father and he called up; he interviewed me; we talked about the influence that fathers have on their children. And as others have said, I mean, clearly his father was so important to him, and he was a great father to Luke. And so it was wonderful to have that kind of relationship with him and to talk to him about father/child relationships.
KING: Paul Begala, when he was hammering you, did you still genuinely like him?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You couldn't help it. He had that Irish charm, that twinkle in his eye. And also, there was a part in the back of your mind, at least for me, where you're thinking, you know, he has a point here. He just may be right, which is always a terrible thing to be thinking when someone is interviewing you. He never lost that heart.
I'm thinking today about a moment in New Hampshire, 1992, when Bill Clinton was running for president. We're at a town hall meeting, one of a thousand others. Tim was up there covering it for NBC and a woman named Mary Annie Davies started telling Bill Clinton how she had to choose between paying for medicine and paying for her heat. She became so embarrassed and so overcome and she started crying. Clinton put her in a big old bear hug. And I turned over and looked at Russert and his eyes were filled with tears.
I haven't the slightest idea what his position was on prescription drug coverage for Medicare, but it was a human connection that a guy like him never lost.
KING: Campbell Brown, he hired you at NBC?
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He did, Larry. He gave me my first break at NBC. He was -- he hired me to the Washington bureau there as a correspondent, because he was the Washington bureau chief, in addition to being host of "Meet the Press." So He was my boss. And when he hired me, I was very green. I was still trying to figure out the ways of Washington and politics. And he would often call me with a little tip, a little piece of news that I could follow up on and put in my story for that night's evening news, that he knew would help me impress the higher ups in New York.
He would always let me take credit for it, but it was -- that's what he was known for. He had the signature -- he would call you on phone. He had this signature sign off, where he would give you a tip and say, OK, go get him. Those were your marching orders from Tim. I can't tell you how many times he did that. I owe him so much as a mentor, but also, you know, as a friend, Larry.
I'll tell you my -- I left NBC to come to CNN almost a year ago now, and just in December I had a baby and I got home from the hospital. And waiting for me was this hand written letter from Tim, not written to me, but written to my son, where he, you know, talked to him about how lucky he was to have me and my husband as parents, and how lucky he was to have been born into this wonderful world. It was this incredibly optimistic letter and then saying to him that my son had been born into this news and political family now and that he would have this internship waiting for him at "Meet the Press" whenever he was ready. It was really sweet, Larry.
KING: Thanks, Campbell. And Madeleine, do you agree with "Washingtonian Magazine," saying he was the most influential journalist in Washington?
ALBRIGHT: I think he really was because people knew that he would ask very, very tough questions. And I've got to say, with all due respect to Bob and Wolf, Sundays will not be the same. Because one would really build your day, your Sunday morning around being there to watch Tim and see what was going to happen. It is just -- I also don't know how we're quite going to get through the political season without having his very, very clear and perceptive remarks about what is going on.
KING: Wolf was smart enough not to be on directly opposite him. By the way, Campbell will have more on Tim at the top of the hour. Tim did an interview, by the way, with someone just this morning. The last piece of work he did. That someone will be with us right after the break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSSERT: We are surrogates for the American people. Very few places in the 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 is the best one you could ever have. It is a vocation being in journalism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Sad day for many, many, many people. Our special condolences to Tim's long time executive producer Betsy Fisher. Before we talk with John Harwood, who the last work Tim Russert did was interviewing him this morning, Wolf you always have snippets from "Meet the Press" at the end of your show, right, when you look at what happened earlier that Sunday.
BLITZER: Right, we always have a segment called in case you miss it. We're the last word in Sunday talk. We're also the longest word in Sunday talk, two hours. So we have a time to look at what the other four Sunday more talk shows are doing. And we'll have clips of the best and most important, the news worthy bytes, as we say, of what happened.
KING: Will you devote a lot of attention to Tim on Sunday.
BLITZER: Yes, we will. We'll look back and we'll remember. And we would love to have some of the other Sunday morning talk show hosts join us and just sit around and we can all look back and assess what we have learned and what we're about to miss.
KING: I think they will. John Harwood is the chief Washington correspondent for cNBC, a political writer for the "New York Times," and he was interviewed by Tim Russert earlier this morning, what, about a new book, John?
JOHN HARWOOD, "NEW YORK TIMES": Like a lot of authors, I went on Tim's cable show this morning. We taped it from 9:15 to about 10:15, had a great interview, walked out of the studio with my co-author, Jerry Side (ph). And he said, you know, I don't think Tim was feeling all that well today. I didn't think a thing about it. I thought he was tired because he had flown in from Rome the night before.
I could not have been more shocked when I got the news from a colleague in journalism about what had happened. In fact, I got an inquiry saying there is a rumor this happened to Tim. My reaction was, that's ridiculous. I was just with him. You know, you never know what is going to happen.
KING: Now you have retrospect. Based on what your co-author said, look back for me and tell me what thoughts you have now and what you might have observed.
HARWOOD: I don't think there is anything I could have seen. I heard Tim's doctor talking with Andrea Mitchell tonight, and he was describing how Tim was asymptomatic. He had some heart issues, but he didn't have symptoms. He was being treated for those. I don't think I would have seen anything.
Larry, he was as engaged as he could possibly have been, not just in the content of our book, but how it related to the 2008 campaign. It was a marvelous conversation and a reminder of what a great journalist he was, because of his passion for politics and passion for the campaign and the whole environment in Washington which he dominated.
KING: You're never going to forget this day.
HARWOOD: I absolutely won't forget it. I got to asked today, Larry, have I never known a journalist as tough and fair minded as Tim Russert? The answer is yes. My own father was a journalist. He was in print. He worked for the "Washington Post" for a long time. But in the television realm, there was nobody who could do it like Tim Russert, in terms of getting politicians in front of them, holding them accountable, exposing the gaps and the contradictions in their plans.
Ted Koppel and Wolf Blitzer are pretty darn good at it too, but Tim Russert was a real hero to me and many other people in this business.
KING: Thanks for joining us, John Harwood. When we come back, I want to ask Ted Koppel if he thinks the death of Tim Russert gives him pause about his own health. We're all in this business. We've all got to think about it.
Statement from President Bush says, in part, "Laura and I are deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Tim Russert. Those of us who knew and worked with him, with Tim, his many friends and millions of Americans who loyally followed his career on the air, will all miss him. Tim was a tough and hard working newsman, always well informed and thorough in his interviews.
Most important, Tim was a proud son and father. And Laura and I offer our deepest sympathies to his wife, Maureen, his son, Luke, and the entire Russert family.
We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KING: Before we hear from Terry McAuliffe, Ted Koppel, does something like this give you pause about your own health?
KOPPEL: Well, you know, I think it has to give you pause. But I want to say something else, if I may, on the same subject. When you look at the world of cable television these days, you look at the different programs that Tim Russert was trying to satisfy. I mean, we just heard he was doing his show on cNBC this morning. The last thing you would see at night would be Tim on MSNBC after a debate, after he had done the debate. The first thing you would see in the morning would be Tim on "The Today Show."
Then you would see him on with Brian Williams on the evening news. Then you see him on MSNBC during the course of the day. Even machines break down. And there is such a thing as -- you know, Tim was such a good guy that all it would take was someone to say, Tim, we really need you on, can you come on? And he would be there and he would give it his all.
But I think we need to learn something from this. You can't work people 20 hours a day, month after month after month after month, without some kind of consequences. I don't know what it was that was wrong with Tim. I don't know why Tim died. But all I can say is that man worked too hard.
KING: Perfectly said. Terry McAuliffe, who was chair of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, a former chairman of the DNC, was a good friend of Tim Russert, how does this hit you?
TERRY MCAULIFFE, FMR CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIR: I couldn't believe it today. I had been on Tim's show many, many times. And I was never on a panel. I was always the one he was asking the tough questions of. But, you know, he was always fair. He was a tough interview. When I went on his show, I knew I had to be prepared. I felt like I was cramming for exams again.
At the end of the interview, you never felt that he took any cheap shots. He let you answer the questions. And Tim and I talked an awful lot. We talked about sports. He loved politics, both from upstate New York.
I'm devastated by the news. No one will ever be able to replace Tim Russert. When I was chairman of the party, I would go on right before every election and Tim would say, all right, Terry, I'm going to take some bets with you. So I would always have to bet money. And he would always take the toughest races. And as chairman of the party, I could never say we were going to lose. Every year, I had to spend thousands of dollars giving to the Boys and Girls Club of Washington that Tim always supported.
But I'm going miss him. We did a lot of battles together. But, more importantly, we were great friends. And I think I speak for a lot of people who sat in the hot seat for many years, you know what, you'd never give a day back. He was spectacular. KING: Wolf, we know how much you work. Do you take heed with what Ted Koppel said?
BLITZER: I certainly do. And I'm going change my lifestyle. I'm going to be --
BLITZER: No. But I love what I do. I know you love what you're doing. Ted loves what he's doing. All of us do it because it is exciting. It is fun. It is great. We get paid to do something we probably would want to be doing if we had become accountants or lawyers or doctors or something else. It looks hard and it is hard. But it is --
KING: You won't cut back.
BLITZER: It is also exhilarating. I'm not planning on cutting back. I know some people would probably like me to.
KING: We have a statement from Nancy Reagan; "I was stunned and saddened today to hear the death of Tim Russert. Tim was a force of nature on the airwaves and it is hard to believe that great voice has been silent. His integrity, intelligence and fairness will be greatly missed. And Sunday mornings will never be the same."
Here's Tim and Wolf on together on LARRY KING LIVE. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: You discuss on your show what's been said on the other Sunday shows.
BLITZER: Because we're the last word in Sunday talk. You know that, right?
RUSSERT: Because if it's Sunday, it's "Meet the Press."
BLITZER: We're the only one seen live around the world in 240 countries.
KING: Very competitive. Do you all respect each other?
RUSSERT: Very much.
KING: Is there a Sunday morning clique.
BLITZER: I respect all of the competition. These are all smart guys who know what they're doing and have been at it a long time. IT's a collegial thing. A lot of times, Larry, if there is really big guest, we all do the same guest. It's a Ginsburg. You remember the full Ginsburg.
RUSSERT: We share facilities around the world. There is a deep and abiding respect because we know how hard it is. It's a lot of work, a lot of preparation. (END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: How do you measure yourself as a father?
RUSSERT: It is a hard challenge. When I wrote "Big Russ," I re- read it. And I realized I had written it as much for my son as for myself. I wanted to take those same values and those same lessons of preparation and discipline and accountability and instill them into my son.
I lived -- I lived in South Buffalo. He lives in Washington, opportunity and access. And I'm much more emotional with my son because I remember how much I missed that with my dad off working. So I'm grabbing him all the time, and roughing him up a little bit and telling him how much I love him.
I say to him, Luke, and his mom says it all the time as well, you're always, always loved but you're never, never entitled. There is no sense of entitlement. You're not going to walk through this Earth thinking that it all revolves around you. You have an obligation to understand that something bigger than yourself.
To whom much is given, much is expected. When he went off to college, I wrote him a little note. And I said three things, work hard or study hard, laugh often, keep your honor. That's the only advice I'm going to give you. It is something I try to live with my own life. Don't always succeed, but it is my best shot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: And he just graduated college. Terry, any final thought?
MCAULIFFE: No. But Tim talked about children, you know. When I would go on the show, I would bring three or more of my five children and always after the show Tim would bring them up, put out a platter of food. He'd give them the hats. He'd give them the chalk boards. He'd give them the mugs. We would sit there for 20, 25 minutes. Here was Tim, just done a big show. You know, kids were everything to him. And when we listened to Tim talk about Luke and talk about his father, it reminds me how good Tim Russert was to my five children.
And they all have pictures with him. He was just a special, special, special guy, someone who will never be replaced, but he made this a better city. He made this a better country because the questions he asked, and what he drew out of people and forced a lot of us to do things for the betterment of other people. And I think that's quite a tribute to him.
KING: Terry McAuliffe. Ted Koppel, we look forward to that program on China. And we thank you for being with us. Wolf Blitzer, Sunday, you'll devote the program or a good degree of the program to the passing of Tim Russert, thank you. BLITZER: Very sad. One more thing, Larry. It is going to be especially sad to think about a Father's Day weekend, this Sunday is Father's Day. And Luke's not going to have his father. And Big Russ is not going to have his son. And you think about how sad that is.
BLITZER: It gets pretty sad, yes.
KING: Thank you all very much.
Tim Russert never forgot his roots. As successful and as influential as he became, he always remembered where he had come from and how he had been raised. In a very rocky world, Tim Russert was a very grounded man, devoted to his faith in his country, passionate about his work. But above all, he loved his family. His dad Big Russ, his wife, journalist Maureen Orth, and their wonderful son Luke, who just graduated from Boston College.
Tim Russert left an incredible legacy. One small part of are these heart felt words from the epilogue of his remarkable best-seller "Big Russ and Me." I'll read from it; "Dear Luke," his son," I wrote this book for you grandpa. As I finish it, I realize how much of it is also for you. Luke, man, along the way you'll hit some hurdles and experience set backs. I'll always be there, as grandpa was for me. But remember, while you are always, always loved, you are never, never entitled. As grandpa likes to say, the world doesn't owe you a favor. You do, however, owe the world this something, to live a good and decent and meaningful life, and would be the ultimate affirmation of grandpa's lessons and values. The wisest commencement speech I ever heard was all of 15 words; the best exercise of the human heart is reaching down and picking someone else up. I'm so proud to be your father. Pursue every one of your dreams. They really are reachable. As Big Russ would say, what a country. Love dad."
Sunday night, a look back at our Tim Russert interviews. Steve Corell will be with us on Monday. It's time now for Campbell Brown and "AC 360." Campbell?