Sunday, November 14, 2010;
I think it's the greatest job in journalism. I leapt at the chance to do [it], but having to succeed Tim [Russert] after he died was clearly the most difficult thing to do. It was a very delicate time.
What I knew, even on day one, is that somehow this is going to have to become my own and that "Meet the Press" was going to have to go in a different direction ultimately. All I thought about doing initially was finding my comfort zone. And you know what? That took a little longer than even I thought it would. There was a moment in time where I just sort of got over that, and I could walk onto that set and say, "No, no, this is okay. This is my program now. I have permission to do it, and it's okay."
People come on the program with something that they want to say but even more that they don't want to say. I remember early on, interviewing Secretary [Robert] Gates, and I asked him to compare Obama and Bush, since he'd worked for both of them. Now, in my preparation, I knew that he did not answer that question before, and I thought it might be a waste of time to ask it here. But I asked anyway. And he kind of brushed it off. I followed up, and then I just remember being quiet.
One of the things I've tried to learn from Tom Brokaw is you don't have to always talk on the air. Letting a moment hang in broadcasting is a really important tool. And as I let it sit, he ultimately answered the question and gave this very interesting analysis of where he thought Bush was different from Obama, and Obama was more analytical than Bush and would single people out at a meeting to make sure everybody contributed. I know that Secretary Gates later regretted that he had offered that analysis, but that was a moment that I thought, Wow, I'm getting something real here.
I love some of the bigger questions associated with the role of government, of history, about what presidents learn over time, the arc of history, in my life and well before that. I was with the president [Bush] that day, on September 14 for his first visit to Ground Zero.
I was there at that bullhorn moment, about 15 feet away from him. I thought, This is what I want to be doing. This is what I do, this is who I am, and this is a moment that will live forever. I have a front seat for it, as an observer, as an analyst, as a chronicler of really important events. I feel very lucky that I don't ever have to do anything else.
Interview by Robin Rose Parker