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Hannity

Russert's Book In Time for Dad's Day

This is a partial transcript from "HANNITY & COLMES", June 15, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: The gloves are off again on the campaign trail as both candidates are trading jabs over the economy this week.

Joining us now, the moderator of "Meet the Press," the author of "Big Russ and Me: Father and Son Lessons of Life," Tim Russert.

Glad the book is doing so well.

TIM RUSSERT, MODERATOR, NBC'S "MEET THE PRESS": Thank you.

COLMES: We're going to see more of what we just saw in Saudi Arabia. I fear we'll see more of that.

RUSSERT: There's no doubt in my mind. Al Qaeda has decided that toppling Saudi Arabia is the key to breaking America's back economically.

COLMES: Yes.

RUSSERT: If they can drive American economic and oil interests out of Saudi Arabia they can cause really havoc with our economic system.

COLMES: And they're pointing to and saying look what we did at Abu Ghraib; that's why we're doing this. Do we even give it any credibility?

RUSSERT: No, you can't. Usama bin Laden has said years ago he was going to take down the royal kingdom.

The Saudis had this deal in their own minds, that they could teach hate America in the madrasses, the schools.

COLMES: Yes.

RUSSERT: And they would spare the royal kingdom. The genie is out of the bottle.

COLMES: One of the theories was Usama used Saudis on September 11 for that purpose, to make them look bad so we would think they were behind it.

RUSSERT: Fifteen of the 19 hijackers, from Saudi Arabia.

COLMES: Last time we spoke you were go do an event at the American Legion Hall -- I think it was Legion 721, Post 721 in Buffalo.

RUSSERT: Free beer.

COLMES: You brought the kegs of beer. This is what your father wanted, right? How did it go?

RUSSERT: Unbelievable. People lined up in droves. They had to close it down. Overflow crowds. And Big Russ sat there with me and signed every book, well over a thousand.

COLMES: Big turnout, I'm guessing.

RUSSERT: And more than one keg.

COLMES: More than one keg. That cost at least $85 bucks.

RUSSERT: Yes, it did. It cost me $150 total. Last Saturday I took my dad to the World War II museum -- memorial, and people were yelling, "Hey, Big Russ. Hey, Big Russ." And Big Russ was giving a thumbs up.

COLMES: You made him famous.

RUSSERT: Well, I thought so until we got in the car. I said, "Hey, Dad, you know, these people are really recognizing you."

He said, "Not one of them bought me a beer."

COLMES: Right. So he must have listened to the right perspective.

RUSSERT: Absolutely. He's still grounded, believe me.

COLMES: How is this book -- Now that you've actually been out a little bit -- you came, I think, right after the book came out. You sat here between Sean and me.

And now you've been at it, and people must be coming up to you and sharing their stories and relating to this in a way you maybe didn't even anticipate?

RUSSERT: When we were here, Sean said, you know, this was his biography, he felt, in many ways, growing up the way he grew up in Long Island.

I have never experienced anything like this in my life. People in St. Louis and Cleveland and Milkwaukee and San Francisco saying, "This is my dad." Big Mike or Big Fred or Big Al.

And then they want to tell you their story about how their dad intervened and saved their life or their dad paid their way through college or their dad died trying to work two or three jobs.

COLMES: And it's funny...

RUSSERT: It's changed my life forever.

COLMES: When you started talking about doing a book and they said tell us behind the scenes of "Meet the Press," you said, "No, that's not what I want to do."

RUSSERT: Right.

COLMES: I mean, everybody wanted you to do the "Meet the Press" book.

RUSSERT: They did. "Sundays with Tim.: And I decided -- I decided to write the book about my dad.

And they thought, well, you know, it might be popular in Buffalo or some other places. But it has resonated with the country in a way I never dreamt off.

And here we are Father's Day week. People are talking about it, sending letters and e-mail, saying, you know, "Dad doesn't need a tie. This is the book to give him for Father's Day."

COLMES: Exactly.

RUSSERT: And there's a conversation going on. And the most important piece of it is, guys who survived the Depression, won World War II and built the greatest middle class in mankind are being saluted and thanked for their sacrifice without ever complaining.

COLMES: And you can say to all these people that said write the other book, "I told you so."

Your father would come home from dinner -- you talk about it in the book -- at 5:30. You'd have dinner.

RUSSERT: Supper.

COLMES: Supper. Not dinner, supper.

RUSSERT: Supper.

COLMES: He would then leave, work until midnight, come home, get up at 6. I mean, that is an incredible cycle.

RUSSERT: And I would say to him, "Dad, you must be bored out of your mind. Two full time jobs. How can you do this?"

He said, "Some guys can't find one."

He goes down in a plane crash, almost burns to death, and I said, "Dad, that had to be tough. Six months in the hospital."

"It's tougher for the guys who died."

That innate optimism. I thought a lot of it last week with Ronald Reagan. It's that optimism, that sense of we can always do this. Hard work and optimism.

And I think my dad -- I know my dad passed that on to me. He taught that to me. And I think deep down the country understands and respects that message more than anything else.

HANNITY: Tim, congratulations. Great to have you back. It's exciting, isn't it? You're on the road. You're meeting all these people.

RUSSERT: It's been amazing. It's the greatest experience of my life. A book, unlike TV, it gives you permanence. It's something to hold on to.

HANNITY: I thought of my kids when I was writing both my books. At times I'd stop and said, "One day my kids will read this. They could see Alan Colmes and say who's that guy?

You know, because your father reminds me so much of my father, and that generation, the sacrifice, the hard work, the appreciation of what they had.

What -- I never asked you this question. What did Big Russ -- what does he think of 9/11? What did he think of the Berg video? What does he think of tonight's news, you know, where we have an American held hostage again. What does he think of things like that?

RUSSERT: You know, my first experience with him on that was when Nikita Khrushchev banged his shoe at the United Nations and said your kids will grow up in communism."

And my dad said, " No, sir. No siree." And I could see him physically getting angry. Three years ago I called my dad and I said guess what, "Sergei Khrushchev just became an American citizen."

"Who?"

I said, "Khrushchev's son became an American."

He said, "I told you."

But when he sees Nick Berg, the beheading, I mean, he calls them SOB's. I guess I'll be polite.

HANNITY: He lets it out.

RUSSERT: He does. He can't control his rage. And he'll say, "Why are they doing this to our people? We don't do this. This is not what it's all about. Why don't they fight fair?

HANNITY: Because one of the things, I remember when you described a situation. You had a big interview coming up and you called your dad ahead of time. This is with the president and you said, "What should I ask him after 9/11."

And he said, "Well, ask him the questions we all want answered." Right?

RUSSERT: Vice President Cheney, Camp David, five days after the 11th.

HANNITY: Right.

RUSSERT: And he said, "Let him talk. I want to know what was going on in the White House, in his mind on that day."

And when Vice President Cheney talked about going down three floors to a bunker which no one knew existed. But then the vice president said that he advised the president...

MATTHEWS: They do now.

RUSSERT: Yes, they do. And the vice president recommended to the president of the United States that we shoot down American commercial airliners that was heading to the White House.

And my dad said, you know, "He's right. We have to do that. We have to protect our institutions, our buildings."

HANNITY: Because I -- My father signed up right after Pearl Harbor also, and he served four years in the Pacific.

And I wish I had the opportunity to ask him this question about if we had the criticism we have, then, about the commander in chief, and the daily nonstop harping by prominent politicians, calling the president a liar every day, saying he misled the American people, charges by prominent politicians.

Howard Dean advanced the theory that the president knew about 9/11 ahead of time. Al Gore, our former vice president, screaming at the top of his lungs, Tim, George Bush betrayed America.

What does your dad think of that? What if that happened in World War II?

RUSSERT: I think -- you know, war in real-time is much different, obviously, the way we cover it. But also the political divisions over Iraq or over Vietnam are so much different than World War II.

My dad tells me stories about World War II, about women giving up...

HANNITY: Everything.

RUSSERT: ... girdles and nylons and things to try to help with the war effort.

We were the 12th ranked military, and we still won.

I think that we all would benefit by lowering our voices. I thought last week with Ronald Reagan's funeral, and I know the historians will talk about Iran-Contra and deficits and all that, and they should.

But the American said, "You know what? This is a great American life, 93 years. And we want to celebrate that."

My dad said, the day it happened, he said, "You know, the guy died with dignity. He told us what his illness was, Alzheimer's. He didn't complain, and he wife stole it -- and they did it privately."

No photo ops of Ronald Reagan dying for the last 10 years.

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