Debra J. Saunders

Where's the news? It's not as if anyone is going to say anything critical about Russert. The guy just died. There's a mournful brass horn playing with his photo between segments. You get on TV by fawning about how much Russert loved his son, and no politician or regular guest is going to depart from the script. It's a bit like watching "Larry King Live" after an octogenarian Hollywood star dies, and fellow hoofers rush to reminisce about their tales with the deceased. Even in death, everyone wants in on the act.

The Republican National Committee sent out a statement. Ditto California Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres. California first lady Maria Shriver's statement said that Russert "was one of a kind to me and I was lucky enough to have had him as a best friend."

In this game, crass opportunism is rewarded. Shriver appeared via satellite from Sun Valley, Idaho, on Sunday's special edition of "Meet the Press" -- on which she started or repeated the thread about Russert being the product of nuns, Jesuits and parochial education.

Part of the Russert Weekend phenomenon can be credited to a profession's prerogative. Figure that doctors receive the best medical attention, bartenders pour generous drinks for each other and mortuary owners rate posh funerals. Likewise, one of the perks of journalism is that when we kick the bucket, we get a nice sendoff story.

An outstanding journalist of Russert's stripe rated more than a nice sendoff story. But there is another tenet of the profession that Washington TV news bureaus seem to have forgotten in the shock of Russert's passing: We are not the story.

Debra J. Saunders

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