From the desk of author Michael Solomon

Michael Solomon was a 15-year veteran of the New York City Police Department and served  in its drug enforcement division, receiving well over a dozen awards for his excellent service
Date: June 13, 2008   Special Issue

Tribute to Russert

A Man For All Seasons, Political Or Otherwise.

Broadway is dark on Monday nights. This Sunday, Meet the Press may be dark for what, I believe, may be the first time in a long time.

I was at home in my office preparing for my next radio show when from my wife's office, I heard her yell, "Oh my God, Tim Russert died."

Not believing that I heard her correctly, I ran to her office where Charlie Gibson of ABC News had just interrupted the TV show she was watching. It was at that moment we heard the unforgiving and remorseful news for the first time. Like most of us who knew him, we sat there stunned.

Tim Russert, at age 58 was the beloved moderator of the most stable and reliable institutions on television, Meet the Press. I refer to it as an institution because that is what it is.

It began on the radio's Mutual Broadcasting System in 1945 as American Mercury Presents: Meet the Press. Lawrence Spivak, its creator, produced the show. There have been eight moderators since its beginning. However, Russert had the longest run from 1991 to last week.

Being interviewed on Meet the Press, with Tim Russert as moderator, was considered the pinnacle of a politician's career. However, you had better come prepared. He probably knew more about you than your mother. As tough as he was, is how fair he was. There were politicians that almost feared going on his show; they knew if they were not truly prepared, it could break their career. He was Washington's political watchdog.

My personal memory of Tim goes back three years ago when I published my first book. His book," Big Russ And Me," was released while my book "Success By Default," was in its galley review stage.

I called Tim at home and spoke to his wife Maureen, I told her I wanted to send him a copy of my manuscript in the hopes that he would write the forward. She suggested I send it to his office and told me how to address it so it would find its way onto his desk. I did not have much hope that I would hear from him or that he would even consider writing the forward.

I continued my daily routine not giving it much thought.

One morning about four-weeks later, I answered the telephone. The voice on the other end asked, "Is this Michael Solomon?"

"Yes it is. Who's calling?" I did not have to ask. It was not hard to recognize the voice.

"This is Tim Russert."

Unfortunately, I cannot remember the exact dialogue we had, but I do remember what he said to me. He thanked me for the galley, but said that writing the forward could be considered an endorsement and NBC frowns upon endorsements.

I told him I understood his position, how much I enjoyed reading his book and how much of a fan of his I was. I remember telling him, I know if my dad were still with us sitting with Big Russ having a beer, they would be preaching to the choir about raising children and about life. I thought you might enjoy reading it, I said.

He chuckled and expressed his regret once again that he could not review my book. I told him when it is in print I would send him an autographed copy. We wished each other good luck and said our good-byes.

He could have sent me an email or his secretary could have dropped me a note. Most people in his position would have probably just let it pass because they receive hundreds of books and gifts each week. However, he did it personally. I will probably never forget that phone call. It lasted no more than a minute. He is the kind of person my grandmother would call, "A real mensch."

Tim you undeniably will be missed. I know my Sunday mornings will never be the same.

May God bless and watch over Maureen, Luke, Big Russ and your entire family who we all know meant the world to you..

However, Tim I do know this, you may have run out of seasons, but somewhere in heaven, you are preparing to conduct the ultimate interview.

And, that is my opinion.

Michael Solomon

Author of "Where Did My America Go?"


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