I must confess I did not think it would hit me as hard as it did. I barely knew the woman. But I was on air for my radio show this morning as the news came and I was absolutely struck silent. I had to go to commercial break.
I met Cokie Roberts three times in my life. The last was in a green room at some point in the past few years. The second was during the 2012 conventions. But the first is most special.
That was each Sunday morning as I sat on the floor of my grandparents’ living room in rural East Feliciana Parish. We would come home to Louisiana during the summer from Dubai and I developed an affinity for David Brinkley, in large part because my mother thought George Will hung the moon and he was on that show.
But there was this striking lady from Louisiana. On Sundays, I could boo Sam Donaldson, cheer on George Will, and always wait to see what Cokie Roberts would say. Undoubtedly, she had political sympathies I did not share. Undoubtedly, she always had words that made me think. Undoubtedly, she brought out the best in those around her and drew into her political reports a humanity a lot of people in the orbits of Washington could forget.
When wonks spoke, Cokie Roberts interpreted for the rest of us. She would interpret Washington, D.C. for me for my formative years and more.
When I first met her, I must confess I got really shy. One of the CNN producers saw me staring at Cokie Roberts at I think it was the 2012 Republican convention. The producer insisted I go over and introduce myself. I was stunned she knew who I was. But she not only knew, she knew I was from Louisiana too.
I didn’t want to tell her I grew up watching her on TV. I didn’t want to make her feel old. I told her that I used to do segments with her daughter on POTUS 08 on Sirius/XM. I told her I had long wanted to meet her. I remember very little except her warmth. She told me specifically that she liked I never took the easy talking point position and she knew how hard that could be.
I wanted to tell her I learned that from her. I was shy. I didn’t say it. But I did learn that from her and from Brinkley and George Will every Sunday morning.
She interviewed me once on background for something she was doing and we passed more recently in a green room. She was just delightful and encouraging, particularly encouraging and kind and wanting to know about my wife’s cancer.
Now I guess when last I saw her that hers had returned and I never knew. I knew she and I didn’t share the same political views, but who cares. Cokie Roberts was amazing and fair and hard working and everything you could want in a journalist. She distilled Washington down and made it understandable. She never pretended to be a diviner of truths conjured behind some great veil. She could have given both her history and family. Instead, she chose to part the veil and cut through the crap that others relied on to hide and obfuscate.
She really will be missed.