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Meanwhile, Tim Russert has died.

I was shocked. I remain shocked. Those with an interest in politics and the goings on at the capitol were well served by Tim, at least as much as by anyone else in recent memory. America has lost a great figure and a great service in Tim's death.

At the national level, at the world level, it's just one man, just one heart attack. Perhaps not the epic tragedy his colleagues at NBC feel it is. But it is disheartening.

I try to be, if not cynical, pragmatic and realistic about how things are in life. I find it easy and preferable to be more rational than emotional (though I admit there are strong ties between those modes). But I'll tell you something.... Unlike much media coverage on the demise of some important personage, little of the reaction seems staged or forced. Knowing how personable Russert could seem, even when dealing with the most important issues of our times, it is easy to believe people were attached to him. Tim Russert had a lot of friends. People are proud to think of themselves that way, as Tim's friends.

Chris Matthews, whom I respect deeply, expressed disbelief, characterised Tim as a figure of awe, and referred to the deceased newsman in the present tense for as long as they would let Chris talk. This impressed me. But, when I hear people say, in the simplest terms, "Tim was my friend"--even without, "and now he's gone"--that chokes me up.

What is it about that phrase? It gets me every time.

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