Tom Brokaw on Donald Trump, the 2012 GOP Primary and ‘Rock Center’

By Gail Shister 

Donald Trump “is an utterly shameless self-promoter” and the media should stop enabling him, says Tom Brokaw.

The recent announcement of Trump’s moderating a Republican presidential debate Dec. 27 triggered a media tidal wave, but in terms of news value, it deserved no more than one line, according to Brokaw.

“The fact of the debate is not much news,” says the veteran NBC newsman, making the publicity rounds for his new book, ‘The Times of Our Lives.’ “Just because Trump attaches his name to something doesn’t make it newsworthy.”


To Brokaw, the Iowa debate is “one more chapter in Trump’s extraordinary and tireless efforts to keep Donald Trump in the news. I’m perpetually astonished at how many people play Trump’s game. It’s amusing. He has a lot of enablers, including us [media.]”

How does Brokaw resist Trump’s siren song? “I don’t fall into it. I just say no. I’m spending too much time talking about him right now.”

Regardless, Brokaw, who moderated an Obama-McCain debate a month before the 2008 election, remains bullish on the process. In his view, it provides valuable insights into how candidates think and how they handle tough questions.

With Rick Perry, for example, viewers learned “he was not as much in command of the facts as he appeared to be when he got on stage,” says Brokaw. With Herman Cain: “He had some real issues with personal behavior.”

For the Republicans, the campaign “is in the playground stage,” according to Brokaw, 71. The GOP “is having a hard time falling in love with somebody or picking a candidate who’s equipped to win.” (The two can be mutually exclusive, he adds.)

Voters share that feeling, Brokaw says. As he travels the country promoting his book, “I’m not finding excitement for anybody out there. There’s very little real excitement about Newt. The American people are laying back, taking it in.”

The Republicans were in a similar situation in ‘08, Brokaw says. “Rudy Giuliani was No. 1. Fred Thompson was still in the hunt. Now Rudy’s making speeches and Fred is selling reverse mortgages on TV.”

On another note, Brokaw labels ‘Rock Center,’ the new newsmagazine hosted by his successor, Brian Williams, as “a work in progress. All broadcast newsmagazines need time to find their footing. There’s not a lot of ramp-up time. It’s a scramble every week.”

Brokaw predicts that NBC will hang with the Rock “because the network doesn’t have a lot else on the schedule. The most successful parts of the schedule are from NBC News.”