NBC Political Director Chuck Todd is being interviewed by Carol Joynt at the Q&A Cafe, held at Nathans restaurant.
“A Georgetown salon will tell us how Sarah Palin is playing in middle America,” Todd opens.
On his fan clubs: “I keep my head down. It’s weird. It’s very sober media. They’ve been very kind. As long as they stay positive, I’m happy about it. I don’t want them going negative.”
“Growing up with the name ‘Chuck,’ I have hear every combination. Growing up, a Charlie Brown gift was a standard gift.”
“I’m a very non-religious guy.”
On Chucky T: “I’m not so sure about that. … I could kill Scarborough. It’s a total Scarborough invention. … There’ something about having two short names and two first names, that people feel the need to make them even shorter. I made sure to avoid that with my kids.”
Joynt: “A lot of people think you’re an overnight success.” Todd: “I know. You work hard for 15 years and then you show up on tv and it’s like, ‘Wow!'”
Todd on Hotline: “It was way ahead of its time. … It was always technically an online publication. … Ideologically diversity, I wanted a mix in the newsroom. I wanted people with a political background, I wanted people with a journalism background. … You want the newsroom fight. … I still read it everyday. I’ve figured out a way to read it on my Kindle. … Hotline was always good with numbers, how the polls are, how things are breaking in the states.”
“The Internet is begging to be organized. Why is Google so successful? … I think you’re going to see a consolidation happening. … I only wanted to work for NBC because NBC was the only one who seemed to get that they needed a bit of everything — broadcast, cable, Internet.”
Joynt: “When is your contract up?” Todd: “Not soon enough.” Laughter. “No, no, no. Hopefully never.”
“I didn’t consider myself a journalist until a few years ago. I considered myself an analyst. But then all these other people called themselves journalists …” Laughter. “The definition of a journalist is as loose as its ever been. A lot of people claim that they are. I play by the rules of what I think old school journalism is. … I want to be a guardian at the gate. I want to draw a line in the sand and protect and say you shouldn’t go here. …”
“I lost my father when I was sixteen. I feel the same way about Tim [Russert] everyday when I have this list of 75,000 conversations I wish I could have with him.”
“I never felt that Tim Russert brought me in to tutor me. He brought me in because he trusted me.”
“I was a music major for a while in college.”
On J-School: “On some of these beats, why is it we don’t have experts on the beats versus someone who is trained on knowing Who, What, Where, When, How, etc.? I do come from the idea that, I think, I was an obsessive political junkie from thirteen so, yeah, I wanted to cover politics. Could you pick me up and say go cover the Defense Department? Sure I think I would do a decent job but I’d rather have somebody who was in the defense industry, or maybe was a general. So that’s why I think that maybe more and more news organizations are seeing that the best journalists, the best people for certain jobs aren’t necessarily trained in journalism.”
On MSNBC rumors (cough, Matthew, Olbermann): “There are a lot more untruths out there then truths.”
On Russert: “I really don’t want to put us on the couch on this. He wasn’t just a ballast for NBC, he was a ballast for Washington, for network news.”
On NBC, post-Russert: “To me, it’s an excuse. I don’t want to excuse any issues going on and say, ‘If Tim was here, there wouldn’t be any problem.’ You can’t keep doing that. It’s like when you lose a loved one, there’s only so often you can use that as an excuse, come home late at night, ‘I blew through my curfew, Mom, I was getting drunk and didn’t care.’ You have to sober up and take responsibility for yourself.”
Do you want the “Meet the Press” job? “There’s no right answer to that question. … I don’t know if I want the job. Nobody’s talked to me about it. I looked up to Tim. It is the preeminent show but you’ve got to be a great interrogator … Who wants to be the idiot who follows in Tim’s shows. Not only that, but you have to follow in Tim’s shoes and now Tom [Brokaw]’s shoes?”
Says Todd: “Hopefully Patrick Gavin’s computer isn’t working right now.”
Todd shares this factoid: Every single Republican nominee for veep have appeared on “Meet the Press” before the election except one: Dan Quayle. “There’s a stat that the McCain campaign is well aware of.”
“The star of ‘Meet the Press’ has always been the guest, the format and the show.”
Todd says that he hears three times a day that people so wish Russert were around to interview Palin.
Was Russert too powerful? “When someone passes on, there’s always a mythology of how powerful someone had. Maybe what made Tim powerful within the news network is that he had more power than he ever used.”
Joking about Bill Gates: “Steve Jobs is always going to be cooler than you. Get over it.”
“Polls are going to be wrong this cycle, not because they incorrectly knew if they had the incorrect number on young folks. … It’s going to be the percentage of the electorates. Is Virginia going to be 19 percent African American or 21 percent? … That’s where pollsters are going to get it wrong. … Is there a surge in young voters? Is there a surge in African-American voters?”
“This is a marker election … not because of the first black nominee of a major party, or because of Sarah Palin’s candidacy, but because both of them are post baby boomers.”
“The baby boom generation is going to have to do some soul searching about what happened. It should be Tom Brokaw’s next week. This whole generation that ran the sports world, ran Wall Street, ran the business world … failed us as leaders.”
“I don’t know if the media is mad” at McCain for not being the guy journos thought he was.
“Of course journalists have biases because they’re human beings, like every other human being.”
Do you ever talk to regular voters? “I try to all the time. … Whether its being responsive to emailers or talking to family members. … You do your best. … I love listening to talk radio. … I refuse to do rental car or taxi driver interviews.”
“This bias thing really bothers me at NBC, this accusation stuff. It’s a campaign tactic. … Both parties do it.”
“I think what’s happened is you’ve had both sides make this assumption that everyone is biased … And we actually can’t fight back. We don’t have a campaign.”
No one at NBC has asked him to take his goatee off. “I’ve had somebody send me a shaving kit.”
End: “This was almost fun,” Todd jokes.