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Broder was 'one of a kind'

From NBC's John Yang: I have so many wonderful memories of working with David Broder, but the one that stands out right now was Election Night 1996--or more correctly, the morning after Election Night 1996.

I was the House correspondent for The Washington Post, writing the main drama of the night: Would Democrats recapture the House majority they'd lost two years before? (The presidential contest was an anti-climax: President Bill Clinton's pre-Monica Lewinsky re-election over Sen. Bob Dole.) Election nights at a newspaper are a marathon with finish lines every hour starting at about 9 p.m. until the final edition deadline at about 4:30 the next morning. David and I walked out of the newsroom together after taking a look at the final editions that had rolled off the presses and been delivered to the newsroom.

After a brief nap at home, I dragged myself back to the newsroom a few hours later, feeling like death warmed over. David, some three decades older than me, was already there--and had been there some time--looking chipper and fresh as a daisy. He was sitting in his tiny office--whose distinguishing feature was massive piles of paper (I always thought the greatest threat to the health of America's pre-eminent political reporter was being crushed beneath toppling papers and books)--energetically and cheerfully making phone calls to state and county party chairmen around the country. He eagerly shared his findings with the enthusiasm of a kid on Christmas morning telling you what he'd found under the tree.

That's how I'll always remember David: No matter how many campaigns and elections he'd covered, he never took anything for granted, never assumed anything and always did what the best reporters do--call people, knock on doors and ask questions.

Not that he always had to go out to find people to talk to. I remember when the House prepared to vote on the ethics sanctions against then-Speaker Newt Gingrich in January 1997. There was serious question about whether Gingrich would survive. The House Republicans met in a room in the Capitol basement. I burned a lot of shoe leather chasing down lawmakers, walking with them back and forth between the Capitol and their offices through the catacomb-like tunnels linking the buildings.

Consummate reporter that he was, David had come to the Hill to see for himself. At one point, I went looking for him to share what I thought was a particularly hot tidbit I had just learned. I found him on a metal folding chair in a hallway around the corner from the meeting room--with a line of lawmakers waiting to talk with him. He looked like the friendly parish priest waiting to hear confessions. And, of course, he had learned more than I had.

It's natural that people would line up to talk to David. He was one of the kindest, sweetest souls I've ever known, much less worked with. I first met him in 1982. I was a junior correspondent for Time magazine, covering Michael Dukakis' attempt to regain the Massachusetts governor's office he'd lost four years before. For one hot, humid August day, David and I rode with Dukakis from campaign stop to campaign stop. Actually, I felt I was tagging along as David covered Dukakis. As an aspiring political journalist, I'd long read David, read about him in "The Boys on the Bus" and idolized him. I was awed to be in his company. I don't think I uttered an intelligent sentence to him all day.

Fast forward two years. I was Time's "boy on the bus" in the 1984 presidential campaign. One snowy day, my candidate's bus disgorged the travelling press corps at some community center in New Hampshire. As we filed in, a flannel-shirted arm reached out and grabbed mine. "Welcome to New Hampshire, Mr. Yang." It was David--and I was absolutely stunned that he remembered me.

But I came to learn it was typical of the man. When I joined The Post some years later, he was the most thoughtful, most generous colleague I've ever worked with. But what I got from him most was something he never formally offered. He taught a generation of political journalists how to be thorough, fair and tough. I am grateful to have known him, been able to call him a colleague--and, I can only hope, learned from him. He was one of a kind.