Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Met All My Heroes, Found Out They Were Zeroes.*

What a total letdown.

I grew up watching Tom Brokaw. Millions of us did. As a long time broadcaster myself, I respected Mr. Brokaw for many things not the least of which was his unimpeachable journalistic integrity. Boy, was I wrong!

MoveOn sent me this:

Dear MoveOn member,

Sunday on Meet The Press, Tom Brokaw moderated a debate between McCain strategist Steve Schmidt and Obama strategist David Axelrod on topics ranging from Iraq to the Wall Street bailout. At the end, Tom Brokaw did something strange. He opted to give himself the last word and told the audience:

In fairness to everybody here, I'm just going to end on one note. And that is that we continue to poll on who's best equipped to be Commander in Chief, and John McCain continues to lead in that category despite the criticism from Barack Obama by a factor of 53 to 42 percent in our latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Gentlemen, thank you very much.

We checked, and the latest NBC poll actually has no question about Commander in Chief. We contacted NBC about this, and it turns out Brokaw was referring to a poll taken weeks ago--right after the Republican convention and well before Friday's big national security debate. And in each of NBC's last two polls, Americans chose Obama over McCain.
(MoveOn link with sources here).
(Demand an NBC retraction thru the "Meet The Press" feedback forum here).

"In fairness to everybody here"? is a bizarrely inappropriate us of the phrase. There is no goddamn "fairness" whatsoever in quoting out-of-date poll numbers to inaccurately portray one candidate as strong and the other as ineffectual. I was dumbstruck before I clicked on Media Matters to find this:

On Sunday's Meet the Press, NBC's Tom Brokaw allowed McCain strategist Steve Schmidt to falsely claim that John McCain had called for Don Rumsfeld to be fired. That's an old lie that the McCain campaign had abandoned long ago -- but Brokaw let Schmidt get away with bringing it back.
What the fuck?!? This fucking guy is moderating the second Presidential debate on Oct. 7th! How could it possibly get worse? Oh, it can and it does.

HuffPo tips us to today's NY Times Brokaw profile:

But less widely known is that Mr. Brokaw has also played a pivotal role out of public view, both within NBC and in its dealings with the campaign of John McCain in particular.

In an interview here after Sunday’s broadcast, Mr. Brokaw said that over the summer he had “advocated” within the executive suite of NBC News to modify the anchor duties of the MSNBC hosts Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews on election night and on nights when there were presidential debates. Their expressions of strong political opinions from the MSNBC anchor desk has run counter to the more traditional role Mr. Brokaw played on “NBC Nightly News” for more than two decades. NBC said earlier this month that the two hosts would mostly relinquish their anchor duties to Mr. Gregory, while being present as analysts.

“Keith is an articulate guy who writes well and doesn’t make his arguments in a ‘So’s your old mother’ kind of way,” Mr. Brokaw said. “The mistake was to think he could fill both roles. The other mistake was to think he wouldn’t be tempted to use the anchor position to engage in commentary. That’s who he is.”

Mr. Brokaw said he had also conducted some shuttle diplomacy in recent weeks between NBC and the McCain campaign. His mission, he said, was to assure the candidate’s aides that — despite some negative on-air commentary by Mr. Olbermann in particular — Mr. McCain could still get a fair shake from NBC News. Mr. Brokaw said he had been told by a senior McCain aide, whom he did not name, that the campaign had been reluctant to accept an NBC representative as one of the moderators of the three presidential debates — until his name was invoked.

“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.’”

So Brokaw is acting as mediator/go-between/chief-sucker-upper for NBC to McCain-Palin 2008. If this sort of interaction occurred between a kid running for high school class president and his high school's paper, it would be considered unseemly. This is one of the Big fucking Three! NBC's use of Tom Brokaw in this role is not only distasteful, but it also spells the very death of their news division's integrity and objectivity. This is absolutely one of the strangest moves I've ever seen a network pull.

NBC's motivation is unclear. Is Brokaw moderating this debate in order for NBC to guarantee McCain's participation? Or were McCain's handlers' complaints about Keith & co. a successful blackmail campaign+ that forced the network to ensure a McCain-friendly Brokaw as moderator? Or both? Or something else entirely? Dunno. And why the hell, at this stage in an otherwise stellar & legendary career, would Tom Brokaw willingly let NBC pimp him out?

But wait...There's more:

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.”

Of the prospects for a potential booking, Mr. Brokaw said: “We’re going to get him. I don’t know exactly where or when.”

As for Sarah Palin, the Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential nominee, thus far she has passed over “NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams” in favor of interviews with “World News With Charles Gibson” on ABC and the “CBS Evening News With Katie Couric.” She has also yet to accept an invitation to appear on “Meet the Press,” a point Mr. Brokaw said he raised with her when they met for a moment at the Clinton Global Initiative.

“I told her, ‘I’m the only one in this business who ever had Susan Butcher as a house guest,’ ” Mr. Brokaw said, referring to the Iditarod champion, who died in 2006. “Susan Butcher is to Alaska what Cal Ripken is to Baltimore.”

Ugh. I cannot tell how much of this Brokaw bungle can be attributed to: intense NBC News' pressure to secure McCain and Palin for "Meet The Press", individual ideology, diminished ability, the network's and/or his personal desire to overcompensate (for the Olbermann/Maddow faction's many "sins"), poor judgment, weariness, a massive McCain man-crush or what have you.

What I do know is that the Tom Brokaw I grew up with would never quote a three-week-old poll and present it as current. What's worse is I now find it entirely conceivable that Brokaw's lil' poll faux pas may been accidentally on purpose. That's a very bad thing.

C&L's Nichole Belle has more here and here.


*(I'm paraphrasing some damn song and it's driving me crazy that I cannot recall the title). +McCain has obviously adopted the Bush administration "punish any critical news media" credo.