Meet the Press   |  September 19, 2014

Brokaw: ‘This is a celebration’

June 15: Tim Russert’s closest friends and colleagues look back at his life and legacy on a special edition of “Meet the Press.”

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MEET THE PRESS NBC NEWS (202)885-4598 (Sundays: (202)885-4200)

MR. TOM BROKAW: "Our issues this Sunday." Tim Russert started every edition of MEET THE PRESS with those four words, and those were the words that he was preparing to record when he collapsed and died on Friday at these NBC studios in Washington . Now, his moderator's chair is empty, his voice has been stilled and our issue this sad Sunday morning is remembering and honoring our colleague and our friend with some of the men and women who worked with him and appeared here on MEET THE PRESS , who knew him best and loved him most.

I'm Tom Brokaw . There are so many stories that we could tell about Tim , so many moments that shaped and defined him and our nation. But, in this hour that Tim occupied so proudly and did so well, we will focus on the remarkable things that he did right here on MEET THE PRESS , a program that he called a " national treasure ," of which he said he was only the temporary custodian. For 17 years, of course, he was so much more than all of that. His great friend, the Pulitzer Prize - winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin , is with us this morning.

And it seems to me, Doris , that in the future, historians will have a rich archive in the MEET THE PRESS recordings of the people who have passed through these studios -- who they were, how they evolved and what they became.

MS. DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN: No question about that. I mean, think about the 19th century . We had diaries, we had letters. That's what allows historians to re-create those people who lived then. In this broadcast world, what these recordings will show people years from now is not just the questions he asked, not even just the answers he got, but which people were able to acknowledge errors, which people ruffled under his questions, which ones could share a laugh. You'll get the temperament of these people. They're going to come alive. You know, he loved that " Meet the Press Minute" at the end, where the history could come back. And I keep imagining that maybe four or five election cycles from now, when we're in our 80s, we'll be dragged back to a bunch of young journalists and, and they will, they will say to us, "You knew Tim Russert ? You were there with him?" And we'll be able to know that we knew this man with this boyish enthusiasm. That's what the records won't show, but we'll know that.

MR. BROKAW: What we should hope when we get into our 80s, however, is that they will not bring back some of the judgments that we made here on MEET THE PRESS of that time.

MS. KEARNS GOODWIN: Right. Sanitize that.

MR. BROKAW: Tim has a very large wooden sign in his office, and it's going to be our mantra for this morning. It says, "Thou shall not whine." And if I could add, I think, anything to that, thou shall not weep or cry this morning. This is a celebration, a time to remember. And if there was a signature for MEET THE PRESS under the guidance of Tim Russert , the questions were tough but always fair. Let's take a look at some of those questions, tough and fair, over the years here on MEET THE PRESS , and then talk about that.

(Videotape, November 10, 1991 )

MR. TIM RUSSERT: If I told you it was 25 percent of your state lived below the poverty line , would you believe me?

Mr. DAVID DUKE : I could believe you, yes, sir.

MR. RUSSERT: Are these the kinds of things that governors should know, who the largest employers are, how many people live below the poverty line ?

(Videotape, May 3, 1992 )

MR. ROSS PEROT: Just say...

MR. RUSSERT: You said that part of your $40 billion deficit reduction plan...

MR. PEROT: Now, what I have also told your program today...

MR. RUSSERT: ...is $180 billion.

Mr. PEROT : Yes. May I finish?

MR. RUSSERT: May I finish? It's a simple question.

MR. PEROT: Well, you've already finished.

MR. RUSSERT: Well, I, I...

MR. PEROT: Go, finish again.

MR. RUSSERT: Let's, let's -- please, please.

MR. PEROT: It's your, it's your program, you can do anything you want to with it.

(Videotape, November 7, 1993 )

MR. RUSSERT: Will you allow North Korea to build a nuclear bomb ?

FMR. PRES. BILL CLINTON: North Korea cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear bomb . We have to be very firm about it.

(Videotape, October 13, 1996 )

MR. RUSSERT: Filegate, Travelgate , Whitewater -- what's wrong with those as legitimate issues?

FMR. VICE PRES. AL GORE: Look at all this Whitewater stuff. What's come out of it? Absolutely nothing.

(Videotape April 13, 1997 )

MR. RUSSERT: Would you be willing to retract or apologize for some of the things you said?

Mr. LOUIS FARRAKHAN : If I can defend every word that I speak and every word that I speak is truth, then I have nothing to apologize for.

(Videotape, February 8, 2004 )

MR. RUSSERT: In light of not finding the weapons of mass destruction , do you believe the war in Iraq is a war of choice or a war of necessity?

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: I think it's a -- that's an interesting question. Please elaborate on that a little bit. A war of choice or a war of necessity? It's a war of necessity.

(Videotape, September 4, 2005 )

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Secretary, you say pre-staged. People were sent to the convention center . There was no water, no food, no beds, no authorities there. There as no planning.

SEC'Y MICHAEL CHERTOFF: We'll have time to go back and do an after-action report. But the time right now is to look at what the enormous tasks ahead are.

MR. RUSSERT: Many Americans believe now is the time for accountability.

(Videotape, May 27, 2007 )

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON: Look, I was asked -- I shouldn't have said that, so you're going to -- I've been in public life 25 years. You're going to find a lot of these, and it seems you've found them all here.

MR. RUSSERT: No, I'm just trying to set the record, I'm trying to give you a chance to respond, which is fair.

GOV. RICHARDSON: All right. OK.

(Videotape, April 2, 2006 )

MR. RUSSERT: Senator John McCain , thanks for joining us and sharing your views.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: I haven't had so much fun since my last interrogation.