The news of Tim Russert’s death hit this household pretty hard as he was a regular fixture on the television. His sudden heart attack probably wouldn’t be so painful for the rest of us had it not struck in the middle of this – the most important political campaign season in over half a century. We kept asking each other who could possibly replace him at the Meet the Press? Who could bring the unflinching – yet, not unfriendly – inquisition, the stringent lack of bias, the leave-no-stone-unturned preparation and the unparalleled passion? The easy answer: no one.
Still, the show must go on and Tim would likely want it that way.
While his wake has not yet begun, I’m sure the authorities at NBC are scrambling to find a suitable replacement that will honor the memory of Tim Russert while asserting the individual talents the next host. I offer my opinions as an outsider and really have the utmost curiosity as to the strategies employed by those who will choose Tim’s successor.
I would bet that they are only looking inside the NBC family, perhaps one of Tim’s protégés, for a good candidate. So, I’ll evaluate those I think are first in line – and, obviously, I could be way off.
I seriously doubt Chris is really in contention. First of all, he’s too old. The new moderator of Meet the Press needs to be more youthful – around 40, I’d say – and ready to carry the mantle for a decade or more. Furthermore, Chris is really making his mark on his own show, Hardball, that was designed for him and suits him so well. I rarely miss it. Plus, Chris can be inclined to put that old foot in his mouth, which I generally appreciate being prone to the disease myself, but it just doesn’t seem Meet the Press style.
David Gregory, perhaps the next in line for such a promotion, is another ballsy, no-holds-barred questioner whether he was insisting on an answer from the president or one of his subordinates. He is tenacious and another one of those seemingly-encyclopedic minds regarding the machine that is Washington. His problem: he doesn’t have the X factor (I hate that saying). While you can sense his fever for politics, there is nothing that truly draws the viewer to him. Perhaps he needs more camera time as a moderator on Race for the White House to hit his stride.
Norah would be one of my top picks. She’s smart, sassy, from Texas and would be the first woman host of Meet the Press. She’s either just had her third kid in a year or is about to have it, which would likely be a major factor in her decision should she be offered the position. She’s only 34 and could take a few years to really reach the same level of respect Tim had with those whom he sparred. I think she’d be a wonderful replacement, though. She is, however, and Irish Catholic – which wouldn’t do well in the area of ethnic diversity for the show, but – in my expert opinion – gender diversity makes up for it.
Chuck would the shot in the dark – completely inexperienced in both on-air hosting duties and hardcore questioning of politicos. I think he would be great, however. Chuck has the gleam in the eye that was so magnetic in Tim. He understands the numbers and the culture and has the work ethic of an appropriate successor. Already, he’s a fast-rising star with his own cultish fan base of newsies. His responses are measured and well thought out. He stays calm and collected and humble whenever the camera light finds him. He’s a relative unknown, but with a few years’ marination in the interviewer’s seat, he’d be awesome.
I’m leaving out David Shuster, Kelly O’Donnell – even Rachel Maddow would be a good candidate if she didn’t wear her bias (or, as I like to think, common sense) on her sleeve (I really dig her commentary and analysis, though). The new host, I think, should be a hardworking youngblood. Tim was a little over 40 when he took the reigns and a replacement of that age would be given time to mature without too much viewer judgment.
Hopefully, they’ll rotate hosts in the next weeks using members of the NBC family, as well as outsiders and political insiders. That will provide time for the best decision to be made while keeping viewer interest to see how each guest host performs. The prerequisite should only be their preparation, passion and camera readiness.
I’ll be watching and supportive regardless of who they pick to rebuild the legacy. No one can replace Tim, but at least his memory can be honored by the choice of an excellent successor.
UPDATE: L.A. Times reporting Brian Williams to host Meet the Press this weekend. I’ll be watching.