How would the late Tim Russert assess Tom Brokaw as moderator of “Meet the Press?”
“I would like to think he’d think it’s going pretty well,” Brokaw said today after addressing the 208th annual meeting of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.
“I think Luke [Russert’s son] and Maureen [Russert’s wife] are happy with it. The ratings have more than held up, frankly. Part of it’s due to the attention the broadcast got when we lost Tim” in June.
In addition to their two to three daily phone calls, Brokaw and Russert would exchange emails after every show. “I’d say, ‘That guy worked,’ or ‘That was a dud,’ or whatever,” Brokaw recalls.
As for a permanent successor, “We’re keeping that to ourselves,” Brokaw says testily. “One of the things we’ve always reserved is the right to make decisions on our terms, not [the media’s.]”
If drafted, Brokaw will not run. If nominated, he will not accept. If elected, he will not serve.
“I’m Shermanesque about it,” he says. “I feel the same way about this as I did about ‘Nightly News.’ There are lots of bright young people at NBC who deserve the shot that I had.
“I love doing it. It’s given me a center of gravity during this campaign. It’s also a lot of work.”
Brokaw will miss his bud on Election night, too. Anchoring “is a big job. I needed Tim there every time I was doing it.” This year, of course, Brian Williams takes over. Brokaw says he’ll “probably be offering analysis, but we have not worked out all the commas and semi-colons.”
Over at MSNBC, Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann are back to being commentators after their disastrous stint as election co-anchors. Brokaw lobbied hard for the transition; he’s tired of talking about it, he says.
“That’s behind us. It was not fair to them [to anchor] because they’re commentators and they deserve to have their say, which is why they came to work for us in the first place. So it was easier and better for them to be on their broadcasts and have everyone understand what their role is.
“They’re doing extremely well and MSNBC is doing extremely well, and that’s the important thing.”
At 68, despite his rugged good looks, Brokaw doesn’t buy the old adage that you’re as old as you feel.
“You’re as old as your driver’s license says you are,” he says.