It must be Washington. The broadcast will originate tonight from our studios on Capitol Hill, as will our coverage later in the evening (beginning at 9 p.m ET) of what has always been known in journalism shorthand as "the SOTU." Today was also the day for the traditional background briefing lunch at the White House, where the President and his senior staff host the anchors and commentators of the broadcast and cable networks. Needless to say, our ABC colleague Elizabeth Vargas was inundated by questions from all of us, including the President, about the well-being of Bob Woodruff and Doug Vogt, both of whom were in the air en route to the United States at the time when we sat down for lunch.
Today's gathering adheres to some long-understood rules of Washington journalism... common to both print and broadcast. And yes, the Democrats have a similar gathering on the Hill to present the other side (full disclosure: because it conflicted with our afternoon editorial meeting and the planning of tonight's broadcast, I could not attend the latter but a colleague did). The understanding is that we are let in on the thinking behind the speech (including the President's mood and demeanor) and the political effort going forward. The information is embargoed for the start of the speech, and there may be no direct quotes. Thus endeth today's journalism tutorial.
To the broadcast tonight: We will of course have a speech preview and a report on the victory on the Hill today that the Alito confirmation vote represented for the Administration.
Prominently on the broadcast tonight, we'll take a look back at the extraordinary life that ended today: Coretta Scott King. For those of us who watched her via the televised images of the 1960s, she always seemed the picture of dignity and a tower of strength. We may never see another American like her. She was so emblematic of her times. While she never asked for the public role she was forced to take on in life, she did it with grace and moral force, just like her late husband. It is hard to believe she survived him by 38 years. We will remember her tonight.
We have health news, a look back at the career of "The Chairman" Alan Greenspan (put it this way... American college freshmen have known no other Fed Chairman in their lives on earth!) who is known to many of us as Andrea Mitchell's devoted husband who just HAPPENS to have had a hand in the monetary policy of an entire generation.
There's no good way to segue into the following, but once we promise on the air that we will "keep you posted" on an ongoing story, it's a promise we are duty-bound not to break. Having said that, Rex the Military Dog was on Capitol Hill today, and we'll close the broadcast with that. Think of it as sections of a newspaper. At least I do.
We hope you'll join us for tonight's broadcast from Washington, and Tim Russert and I hope you'll join us for our coverage of the SOTU Address tonight... as they say: on your local NBC Station.