So Tom Brokaw is still chugging over at Meet the Press. The NBC Sunday morning institution has been hosted by the former nightly news anchor since the untimely and unexpected death of Tim Russert earlier this year. The network is probably going to permanently hand off the show to smart analyst Chuck Todd and serviceable anchor David Gregory, but Brokaw will remain at NBC News, by necessity, for a long time. Because he is now their resident grown-up. Which is why he's so irritating. As we all know, NBC news, because of MSNBC, has been taken over by lunatics. Left-wing fanatics like Keith Olbermann and, uh, Rachel Maddow, and just-plain-crazy people like Chris Matthews. The Olbermann-Matthews ticket briefly covered the conventions as if they were real newsanchors and not circus sideshows! This outraged everyone, because they are intemperate and say what they think too much (especially Matthews, who says literally every thought he has, out loud). And no one was more outraged than Brokaw, who politely pulled rank and made his bosses give the serious news back to the serious people. He had to! John McCain and the Republicans were in open revolt against NBC (and the rest of the media, as always, but "NBC" was what they chanted when they called for media blood). And Brokaw is friends with John McCain! Well, not "friends." It's complicated!
Last week during the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, Mr. Brokaw said, he spoke briefly with Mr. McCain, who has not appeared on "Meet the Press" since Mr. Russert's death. While Mr. Brokaw said he and the Republican nominee are not personal friends, he did say they are "friendly" and "always had a great relationship."Which means, yes, they're friends. In much the same way that the serious-minded people of Washington are all friends with the other serious-minded people of Washington, once they've been there long enough to establish their serious-minded cred. This serious-minded fairness is what makes Brokaw basically useless, of course, but in that he's no different than Matt Cooper and Joe Klein and Richard Cohen and David Broder and Candy Crowley. He's the sort of guy who'll only say what he feels—or even say what he knows to be true—when the cameras aren't rolling (or when they are, but he's off the air ). He reportedly couldn't stand Bush (not only an arch-conservative and a buffoon, but also an impolite interloper into Washington, like the Clintons eight years earlier), but as the consummate professional he and his news organization made sure to give the president the benefit of the doubt, over and over and over again. And honestly, on television at least, that era of simple-minded fairness is over. People want to know when something is bullshit, and Keith Olbermann and Bill O'Reilley will tell you when something is bullshit, even if it's not. The odd thing then is you have a Russert or a Brokaw, two steadfast educated liberal coastal elites, who'll bend over backwards to give a fair shake to the Vice President selling a war with obvious lies, because the Vice President is a serious-minded Washingtonian, like them, and they're all doing their jobs. And McCain? The ultimate in respected elder statesmanship! He is intemperate, increasingly unhinged, and his gaffes and lies are an embarrassment to anyone who wants to take him seriously, but Brokaw remembers that Senator McCain was the independent maverick who never bullshitted the press back in the day (only the voters, remember), and he is a man to be taken seriously. So he apologizes for the wayward unseriousness of his network and promises McCain's camp that Keith and crazy Chris aren't in charge anymore.
"One of the things I was told by this person was that they were so irritated, they said, 'If it's an NBC moderator, for any of these debates, we won't go,' " Mr. Brokaw said. "My name came up, and they said, 'Oh, hell, we have to do it, because it's going to be Brokaw.' "See? Then everyone wins! Except you, the viewer. But it's your fault for not being born in the Greatest Generation , and for not experiencing the 1960s , the most important decade ever.