Don’t miss Jon Meacham’s compelling article on Tim Russert’s earnest Roman Catholic faith. One of the great anecdotes from the article is story of Russert trying to convince Meacham to appear on “Meet the Press” to “defend the faith” against the atheism of Christopher Hitchens.
“Hello, brother,” the baritone rumbled on the other end of the phone. “I’ve got a great deal for you.” It was Tim Russert, and there was a twinkle in his toneâ€”the kind of twinkle that suggested what was in the offing was anything but a good deal. “Have you read Hitch yet?” My stomach tightened: Christopher Hitchens, the terrific provocateur, had just published a sulfurous attack on religious faith, and I feared what was coming. “You gotta come down and defend the faith, Brother,” Russert said. Hitchens was slated to come on Russert’s weekend cable show, and Russert wanted a countervailing voice on the program. A devout Catholic, Russert knew I was an Episcopalian, but I had an old rule that I would never debate Hitchens about anythingâ€”he is one of the great intellects and wits of the ageâ€”since there was no chance I would ever win. I tried to demur, but Russert closed in as though he were cornering a politician on a Sunday morning. “It’s the faith, Brother,” he said. “I can’t do itâ€”I’m the moderator. But it’ll be great.”