Two candidates. One is a clown. The other is corrupt.
Correspondingly, this isn’t exactly an awe-inspiring election. And in that regard, there are many journalists whose wit and insight will be dearly missed this presidential cycle. Here are four we miss the most:
1. Christopher Hitchens
Earlier this week, I tweeted “I wish Christopher Hitchens was still alive. He would have had such wonderful things to say about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.”
The point is a serious one. His sarcasm aside, Hitchens would have offered incisive assessments on this ludicrous election. His disdain for vested interests and his extraordinary intellect would have contributed invaluably to our political debates. I smile in imagining how he would intellectually eviscerate Donald Trump, and challenge Hillary Clinton’s perpetual lies.
Whatever issue he was discussing, Hitchens always framed his argument and delivered his ripostes with a mix of humor and fury. And in delivering his thoughts, Hitchens would surely have made us think and laugh. His was a rare skill, and one we need desperately during this election. He didn’t demand our agreement with all his views, but Hitchens did demand our open ears.
2. Tim Russert
Of course, election coverage is about more than intellectual polemics. In that regard, we are also missing a great journalist in the field of objective reporting: Tim Russert. The longtime host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Russert was a giant killer and a bona fide public servant.
Consider Russert’s moderation of a 2008 Democratic primary debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Russert pushed the two candidates on the possible consequences of prematurely withdrawing from Iraq. Clinton derided his questioning, saying it was based on “a lot of hypotheticals” that were “not reality.” Russert pushed back. But in the disaster that followed Obama’s 2011 withdrawal from Iraq, Russert’s concerns were prescient. Today, he might have reminded Clinton of the power of hypotheticals in shaping the fortunes of a nation. And he would have run circles around Donald Trump for his never-ending flip-flop waltzes.
3. Tony Blankley
This year, I also miss Tony Blankley. As opinion editor of The Washington Times, Blankley was an ardent proponent of American exceptionalism. And while Washington was in rapture over Senator Obama’s Presidential candidacy in 2008, Blankley offered polite but skeptical assessments. Something, at the time, that was far too rare.
Yet unlike many in the media, Blankley was always a man of humility and great decency. He was friends with conservatives and liberals alike. I know these things because I know Tony’s family via a fellowship I hold in his name. I’m confident that in this election, while respecting their respective supporters, Tony would have led the charge against both Trump and Clinton. Growing up abroad in London, Tony always understood that America’s exceptionalism is not born of chance. It requires our belief rendered into action.
4. John McLaughlin
Finally, there’s my friend and mentor, Dr. John McLaughlin, who died this week. Hosting the McLaughlin Group for 34 years — yes, 34 — John provided his viewers with keen insight into the workings of Beltway politics. While sometimes judged for his provocative style and sharp commentary, and for the rambunctious tenor of his panel, John was always dedicated to his viewers. His portfolio of sources was — and I can attest to this personally — extraordinary in its depth and political variation.
But John was equally committed to the objective quality of his introductions that preceded each issue on the show. While he was increasingly frail this year, John’s humor, experience, wit, and enduring commitment to the news will be missed in the run up to November.