"It seems so wrong to use the past tense about Tim Russert," wrote Kate O'Beirne nine years ago when Russert died suddenly, and it seems wrong now to use it for Kate. They were two of the people one could call "irreplaceable," because they shared several things.
They died much too young — Kate was 67, and Russert had been ten years younger—but they seemed to have died before their primes happened. Those who seem irreplaceable often have big personalities, contradictory traits, or are doing the kind of work nobody else does, so the spaces they leave go unfilled. Nobody yet has taken the place of Tim Russert, who as Kate said was "grounded in Buffalo," schooled by Pat Moynihan (who came from Hells Kitchen) and therefore existed outside of "the bubble," as the great Charles Murray might say. He relished the angst of the 2000 meltdown, so it seems unjust that he was not here last year for that "holy shit" moment on November 8 when it became certain that this was the race of a lifetime, and that Russert was the only person in recent memory who might have understood why Trump won.
Someone else who might have had understood something was the late Michael Kelly, who had a very fine eye for frauds, crooks, and blowhards, and might have had plenty to say about Trump vs, Clinton, and not very much of it good. He had expressed himself already about Hillary Clinton in the New York Times magazine, about Ted Kennedy in Gentleman's Quarterly, and about Al Gore and Bill Clinton in The New Republic, which soon got him canned from that Gore-friendly venue. From there he went to the Atlantic, which he was editing when he went to Iraq, where he was killed three years later when the jeep in which he was riding was run off the road. Many people who knew or knew of him will never forget where they were when they heard this, your reporter among them, and will never stop mourning. His light touch and his rage were equally lethal, and each sprang from his concept of moral authority: something we won't see again.
Someone else who wrote about Gore and Clinton was Marjorie Williams, whose story early in 2001 about their resentful and tangled relationship was her last to be published in Vanity Fair before she discovered the cancer that killed her, and until her story about it,
Hit by Lightening: A Cancer Memoir appeared in it after she died. Her "beat" as it were, was the intersection of politics and human nature, and her usual topics were less often the lead politicians than the people around them who were their enablers—the consultants, fund-raisers, and media figures — who did their dirty work, kept their secrets, and formed the ecosystem on which they would range. Everyone who can should read her two books of essays, especially the one on her battle with cancer, which will leave you in awe of its courage, which leads you right back to O'Beirne.
O'Beirne too died of cancer, which she fought just as bravely, and though she had twenty more years than did Williams it seemed that she died much too young. She had a huge, large and stunning theatrical presence, like someone who carried her show around with her, and she was the exceedingly rare sort of partisan who could be incisive while still being generous, and lethal while still being kind. They all died too young, but any time that they died would have been much too early. That's what 'irreplaceable' means.
Noemie Emery, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."