Let me just say, that I didn’t agree with Tim Russert’s approach to his show in every respect. I thought his obsession with the green-eyeshade stuff could be tedious. As fair as he tried to be, I thought he took too many cues from mainstream liberal assumptions. And, I can’t say I loved the idea of Meet The Press really being “Meet Tim Russert.” The one-on-one format — as opposed to the old panel method — made Russert into something like the Press Incarnate. But at the end of the day, it was his show and, it seems to me that in nearly every one of these respects Russert’s approach was entirely defensible and maybe even the more correct. Whatever the truth of it, he executed his vision honorably, honestly, and with complete professionalism (minus the forgivable Big Russ and sports stuff). And, as the testimony from his friends and colleagues amply demonstrates, he was a real mensch and sincerely sweet man.
All of that said, I think the show should return to a panel, at least for the time being. What’s wrong with bringing three or four hard-hitting journalists to ask questions the way they used to? This is not only the best way to get a more diverse line of questioning (I would love to see Byron York or Steve Hayes on there asking questions no one else would ask), but it would help forestall some truly awful choices that seem to be in the hopper.
Andrea Mitchell would be fine as a caretaker for the role, I suppose. But David Gregory seems like a terrible choice for among other reasons, he’s not very likable on TV (Russert’s likeability was a huge asset). Keith Olbermann would be a complete disaster, but I assume everyone not sniffing glue knows that. Chris Matthews would require changing the show to “Meet Chris Matthews’s Ego.” Katie Couric? Come now.
The best choice on the list of possibilities is Chuck Todd. I know Chuck a little, but friendship isn’t my motivation. I think he’s the only person on the inside track who’d actually consider the show to be more important than his TV career. Russert famously considered himself a “custodian” of MTP. I’d bet that Chuck would hold the same devotion, if not even more intensely. And with the exception of Matthews, Chuck knows more about politics than all of the other contenders combined.
So why not have the best of both worlds? Russert was many things, but he wasn’t a “moderator.” Moderators balance and direct debates. Russert, to his credit, was a prosecutor. Why not make Chuck Todd the actual moderator of the show and have him moderate a panel of journalists?
In a small way it would be a nice tribute to Russert to go back to the old panel format, demonstrating that his was a unique talent that justified breaking with the traditional approach.