Alex Massie

Tim Russert’s Shoes

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This isn't a criticism of Tim Russert, per se, rather an anecdote that, though trivial, is also rather revealing. From Mark Leibovich's nicely-judged piece in the New York Times:

My last encounter with Mr. Russert was at a Democratic debate in Cleveland, which he was moderating. I was with his colleague Mr. Matthews — I was writing about Mr. Matthews for the New York Times Magazine — and we ran into Mr. Russert in the lobby of the Cleveland Ritz Carlton. He had just worked out and was wearing a sweaty Bills sweatshirt and long shorts and black loafers with tube socks. An MSNBC spokesman who was with us tried to declare Mr. Russert’s attire “off the record,” which I found hilarious, and which I was of course compelled to include in the story. When I called Mr. Russert to tell him this, and he laughed so hard, I had to move the phone away from my ear.

“Just do me one favor,” Mr. Russert said. “Say they were rubber-soled shoes, will you?” Done.

He laughed again, and we talked vividly, I recall, on the topic of how so many people in Washington are obsessed with where they rank, how they’re perceived.

As I say, this is a very minor, insignificant moment, yet the request - and Leibovich's accession to it - are revealing. Does it matter much? Would the public good have been advanced had Leibovich refused Russert's (half-joking?) request? Not especially, but readers might wonder, with some reason, whether someone who was not rich and powerful might have been treated with such consideration. But that's Washington for you: just because it's not off the record doesn't mean it's entirely on the record either...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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