My apologies for not posting in this space since Wednesday. Yesterday in South Carolina, I had a daily broadcast to worry about in addition to debate prep -- and I simply ran out of time in the day. Presiding over a live debate with eight candidates for the presidency became my priority. We owed you more in this space (like an explanation or coverage of the atmospherics at the event) and we failed in that, and I'm sorry about that.
In the time it took me to move from the Nightly News location to the debate hall (a distance of about 100 yards and two stairwells) I learned via Blackberry that my friend Jack Valenti had died. Jack was incredibly kind to me, and I have a stack of personal correspondence from him over the years to prove it. He was a fascinating creature -- controversial for his years at the Motion Picture Association of America -- who played a singular, unique role in the modern Presidency. I don't know that he has an equal in terms of the intimate access he had with the Chief Executive -- combined with his impact on how Washington operated during the Johnson years. LBJ hired him on the spot the day Kennedy was shot -- and for years thereafter, Jack was the first person to see him in the morning and the last person to see him at night. After so many adult years spent studying the Johnson Presidency, it was such a treat to get to know Jack -- a living expert in the English language, a born operator, a natural raconteur and a man who loved his life.
About the debate: let's put it this way -- while I thought all the candidates did well, I was happy not to have to wake up today and moderate another one. The rules on time (full disclosure: they were the product of our own organizers) were very restrictive -- and in the interest of time, I was forced to suppress my own instincts to challenge candidates on unanswered questions -- close to a dozen times. Phil Alongi put together a great broadcast team, and Chuck Todd, our Political Director, was a rock star in all this -- despite the fact that he's got a newborn infant at home...something this father of two is ultra-sensitive to. I felt well-briefed and the questions submitted from all corners of this company (and by friends on the outside) gave us lots to talk about, and some memorable moments along the way. It was an odd feeling to get home and see it being chewed over on all three cable news networks, and then some.
There's also a heckuva YouTube story brewing in Montana -- proof that when there's a camera present, the whole world is watching -- as never before.
We'll close the broadcast this Friday night with our "Making A Difference" report on those in society who are doing just that.
A busy week. We're hoping you'll wrap it all up with us on tonight's Nightly News.