Meet the Press   |  July 30, 2014

Russert was steadfastly ‘loyal’

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

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

MS. MATALIN: He loved, he loved his friends. He never -- and that's not always across the board in this town. He never left anybody. He stood up for his friends, and it wasn't that we just loved him. He loved his friends and took care of them. And unlike most of this town, which is transactional, you weren't just his friend when you were in. If you were out of office, he still called you and he still was -- he just was loved because he was such a lover of people.

MR. BARNICLE: He had, he had that reservoir of loyalty that so few people have. And I would think, especially in this city where I don't live but I've always likened it to what I call elevator loyalty, if you and I are going to the sixth floor to the first floor and I'm your friend and I'm very loyal, we get out you go that way, I go that way and I'm killing you half a block away. Tim was loyal. He was loyal. You were his friend. He admired you or he liked you or whatever, he would remain loyal to you through thick and thin, through -- Don , Don Imus he was loyal to Don . He understood, Gwen , and learned from that experience, as we all did.

MS. IFILL: Yes, he did.

MR. BARNICLE: But it just -- and loyalty is such a rare commodity.

MR. BROKAW: Well, speaking of loyalty, we all know that Tim Russert grew up in south Buffalo , working-class family. He wrote about it with " Big Russ and Me." And even though he rose to the heights, being one of the most important journalists in America , a guy who could drive a political debate in this country, had all the good fortune that goes with the success that he had, he never forgot his Buffalo roots. This is the Buffalo News . I think it's huge testimony to how they felt about him in his hometown. And we thought we would share with you just a few of the hundreds of thousands of references to Buffalo and everything connected to Buffalo that we heard on this broadcast.

MR. RUSSERT: For Big Russ , his buddies back in Buffalo who helped make this country great, for the city of Buffalo and for all the underdogs in this country and around the world, go you Buffalo Bills .

Go Sabers . Bring it home . We want the cup.

How about those Boston College Eagles ? On to the Sweet 16 . Go Eagles .

Go Bills , get those Skins .

Sorry about those Bills , but how about those Sabers ?

St. Albans Bulldogs , 25; the Gonzaga Eagles , 20. Yesterday God was not purple, he was wearing Bulldog blue.

And hey, Buffalo Sabers , nice job. Ten in a row. Make me proud.

Go Bills . Squish the fish. Hold the e-mails, I know dolphins are mammals, but, you know, squish the fish.

If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS . And, oh yes, go Bills .

MS. KEARNS GOODWIN: You know, Tom ...

MR. BROKAW: He was beyond shameless about the...

MR. CARVILLE: He loved -- I'm telling you Saturday night I'm watching the LSU football game, and they'd scored a touchdown, 10:30 . I looked on my cell, there he is. He said, "Can you believe LSU just scored? I'm so happy for you." And I go like, "Man you got to go to sleep, you got to do the show tomorrow." If, if you were pulling for a team and you were a friend of his, he'd be for the team. You know, everybody.

MR. BROKAW: Right.

MR. CARVILLE: You know, Jacob Haskell ...

MR. BARNICLE: Thursday night I'm in New York , the Celtics / Lakers game is going on, and it's close. The Celtics phenomenal comeback. I'm trying to fall asleep in a hotel room , phone rings."Hey, buddy, do you see what's going on out there? You see the run they're putting on?"

MR. CARVILLE: It just -- it never -- when I talk about that, that kind of little boy , he had enthusiasm for the Bills . But if you had a team, he followed his friends teams, and the number -- and the -- ......stadium, Jacob Haskell makes a first down and my phone rings in the middle of 92,000 people.

MR. BROKAW: Wow. he was...

MS. KEARNS GOODWIN: You know, he so loved Buffalo that, even at one point when he asked me, "What are you going to do after Lincoln ?" I said, "How -- what can I do anything after Lincoln . I certainly can't go back to Millard Fillmore ." And he said, "Now, wait. Millard Fillmore came from Buffalo . Don't say bad things about Millard Fillmore ."

MS. IFILL: You know that's how I got hired here. I, I -- the real reason I got my job at NBC was because I had lived for four formative years in Buffalo , New York . To heck with my....

MR. BROKAW: Well, my, my best experience with him and the whole Buffalo Bills thing is that he invoked God at the end of MEET THE PRESS when the Bills were playing the Cowboys in the Super Bowl in Pasadena . And he said something to the effect that if there is a God in heaven, the Bills will win it. And I looked at him, and I said, "Look, I think you've crossed the line here." And he said, "No. I think -- I feel strongly about that," you know, "and I'm urging everybody to pray." And, and he said, "I've invoked the entire Catholic Church , trying to get the Bills across the line." And so we go to the game and, of course, the Bills just completely blown out of the Rose Bowl by Dallas . And Tim was walking dejectedly with Luke at his side, who was about 10 at the time, over to the NBC party, and I went to Tim and I said, "You know what this proves?" And he said, "What?" And I said, "God is a Baptist ." And to Tim 's credit, he told that story wherever he appeared.

MR. BARNICLE: You could never mention Scott Norwood around Tim .

MR. BROKAW: No.

MR. BARNICLE: Wide right in the Super Bowl , Bills lose to the New York Giants . Field goal kicker .

MR. BROKAW: Well, you know, the other thing is that he's what they call in the sports business a "homer." I mean, he, you know, he was for the home team . He was for your team because it was the home team . He was for -- when Luke goes to Boston College , it becomes the greatest institution in American life , and the Eagles got more possible attention than they could have imagined.

Can we just share something else? Tim had a 50th birthday eight years ago, and this is a distinguished American historian in a way that you have never, ever seen her before. Ladies and gentlemen, Doris Kearns va-va-voom!

MS. KEARNS GOODWIN: Happy Birthday...

MR. RUSSERT: Jeff , you're, you're going to see this on Imus . I like this out here.

MS. KEARNS GOODWIN: Oh, God.

MS. IFILL: Did, did you sing?

MS. KEARNS GOODWIN: I had to sing. You know how Marilyn Monroe sung, " Happy birthday , Mr. President." So I had to sing, " Happy birthday , Mr. Moderator." Oh, God, it was the most embarrassing moment.

MS. IFILL: No.

MS. KEARNS GOODWIN: I thought, "I'll never be able to do it." And sometime, you put that stupid thing around your neck and you have a wig on, you become another person, at least for a few moments.