I am just back from spending some time with Secretary Baker and Congressman Hamilton. On days like this, at events like this, the networks draw lots for major interviews. The last time we did this was to interview Congresswoman Pelosi, the day after the election. Today, NBC was fourth in the order -- a place in the batting order which really amounted to a chance to see some colleagues. Charlie Gibson was exiting the Hart Senate Office building as we drove up. Then I saw Brit Hume, who had just finished his interview. Anderson Cooper next, as he was walking out. Katie and I waited in a holding room, and she followed our interview slot. Luckily, we all get along very well (of the group, I've spent the most time and flown the most miles with Brit, who covered the Clinton White House for ABC while I covered for NBC). As quarters are close, we go to so many of the same events, and we all see each other often.
I came away very pleased with our conversation with Messrs. Baker and Hamilton. I found their answers (as I did watching the press conference earlier) very candid and quite emotional. Speaking only as a citizen, it is so pleasing to see our very best public servants -- true patriots who have already given so much for their country -- come together and answer the call for what they see as the common good. The alliance between Presidents Bush (41) and Clinton is a wonderful example, as is the friendship forged between former rivals Ford and Carter. I think a huge percentage of the American people crave this kind of cooperation -- and today was a stark example of it.
I just spoke with Congressman Frank Wolf, R-Va., who is the originator of the Iraq Study Group. I covered him as a young TV reporter here in Washington in the 80s and got to know him then. He came back from his third trip to Iraq, horrified by the rise in danger there, and came up with the idea for a bipartisan panel... rammed it through and found the funding. There came a rather weighty and very sincere moment when he took me aside today and called it my "responsibility" (as a member of the media) to put as much of this on the air as possible... toward fostering public debate, he said, as a way to someday, somehow unify a nation at war.
All of which brings us to tonight's broadcast, which will dwell heavily on the topic that brings Nightly News to Washington tonight. David Gregory will start us off, we'll get the reporting of Andrea Mitchell, and we'll air a substantial portion of my interview and hear from Tim Russert, among other elements. It's a heavy coverage load for us (and we're back to our normal commercial load... Monday spoiled us, I'm afraid), and so there's a bit of a debate over the elective stories that remain to fill the small amount of remaining, available time.
We hope you will join us for the Wednesday edition of Nightly News from Washington tonight.
Photo captions: James Baker and Lee Hamilton remove their mics after more than an hour in the hot seat. They spoke with all the network news anchors, plus CNN & FOX, for 15 minutes each.
Second photo: The "official interview lineup" note for James Baker and Lee Hamilton.
Photos by NBC's Subrata De.