What a surreal afternoon of cable news viewing. After a report of "gunshots" in or near the garage of the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, the entire, massive post-9/11 emergency response apparatus swung into action and the RHOB was locked down for hours. A press conference was held by police (always, always a GREAT place to hear the word "ongoing", which I don't think gets used nearly enough in everyday conversation) and some otherwise responsible adults were left to give live interviews while locked into hearing rooms. The cameras worked, the audio was by cell phone -- and so people like Dana Priest of the Washington Post were forced to talk about "conditions inside" the room. It was reminiscent of the holding tank that astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins were forced to live in after returning from the moon. (Remember their conversation with Nixon through the glass?)
July 24, 1969: President Richard Nixon talks with Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin, Jr., as they are confined to the Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF) aboard the U.S.S. Hornet, prime recovery ship for the historic Apollo 11 lunar landing mission. Photo courtesy of NASA.
In other news, the positively awful story, accelerated by a quote from a senior official at the Pentagon today, of the killing of Iraqi civilians by U.S. Marines in Haditha. The implication is that it might have been murder. Frequent viewers will know we've been reporting this story closely and carefully. Tonight we will cover it, along with the context of the stresses of close-in combat in a place like Iraq.
We will also look at the surprise of the president's bilateral news conference last night, and we'll talk to Tim Russert about context as well.
As I write this, two separate cable channels are doing segments on the American Idol final round of two nights ago. When I tuned in Wednesday night, I saw David Hasselhoff weeping... which raised so many questions that I had to quickly change the channel and go back to watching the Yankees game.
It's been a long week. It started, for the members of our traveling broadcast team, when we landed in Nigeria in the pre-dawn hours Monday morning. It will end on a rainy Friday night of a holiday weekend here in New York.
Since I was traveling when the news broke, I wanted to take a moment to publicly congratulate Charlie Gibson on his new position. Charlie is a friend and a terrific broadcaster, and I look forward to seeing him in the chair starting next week. Allow me as well to salute Elizabeth Vargas for a job well done... and we wish Elizabeth and her husband Marc the very best as they prepare for a new arrival in their home. Above all, Bob Woodruff remains in our daily thoughts as he continues what those close to him have described as a truly heroic recovery.
My thanks to Campbell Brown for filling in here last night while I attended a family event. I look forward to seeing the good folks of Elmira, N.Y., this weekend, as I head there to help celebrate a local landmark. I hope everyone has a safe and healthy Memorial Day weekend. Please try to find time to reflect on the meaning of the holiday... at least once between now and when the nation returns to work on Tuesday. We hope you can join us tonight.