My Pick For Russert’s Replacement
This election year is too important to offer Tim Russert’s venerable moderator’s seat to anyone who might be perceived as too partisan (Chris Matthews or Keith Olbermann), too inexperienced (David Gregory or Anderson Cooper), or too cerebral (Charlie Rose).
My nomination for the job? Ted Koppel.
We need someone who can ask the tough, well-researched questions- and demand answers. Ted did this on a daily basis for years!
We need someone familiar with the Beltway. Ted is already an established insider whose Nightline program was based in DC for years. He is not a crony. I believe he is an unabashed truth seeker.
We need someone with moral authority and a clean track record for candor and honesty. I believe in Ted.
We need someone who has the years of experience to offer context and meaning to the news developments in this election cycle. Again, Ted tops the field.
I suggest NBC resurrects the master of the nightly political interview. Koppel has covered EVERY SINGLE WAR since Vietnam. Every single election since LBJ. He had the presence of mind to remind American citizens in the spring of 2003- weeks after the war began in Iraq and as President Bush prepared to announce “Mission Accomplished”- that the internal struggle in that country had only just begun. Remember, this was months before any of us had even heard of the term “insurgency.”
And look at this video below. Tim Russert interviewed Ted on Meet the Press in 2007! It is a little dated and you may not agree with everything he says, but within the context of the time– he offers another dose of wisdom.
Koppel also knows how to interrogate in his own distinct way, as he did while interviewing Bush’s “Brownie” in the aftermath of the Katrina disaster. See it here. Not only is he tough on Michael Brown– he ends the grilling in a way that shows it wasn’t about making himself look good. It was about finding the truth and holding the person at the top accountable.
Then… check out this classic Koppel moment from an old Nightline. He interviews former Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis. Listen to him talk about what happened behind the scenes.
There is a plethora of old Koppel videos on YouTube and elsewhere. It’s a testament to his skill and legacy.
I don’t know that Mr. Koppel has quite the same speed or ability to connect with the “Everyman” that Mr. Russert was known for. What always comes through to me in his reporting and interviewing, though, is his curiosity, focus and compassion for those he seeks answers for- and from.
In conclusion, he has covered the broad spectrum of American society and interacted in human ways with soldiers, children, politicos, etc. And who can forget Morrie– the guy Ted spoke to years ago in interviews that inspired Mitch Albom to write his best seller.
Like Russert, Koppel has written books. Like Russert, he has received tons of accolades. Like Russert, he is based in Washington. Like Russert, being interviewed by Koppel is like a rite of passage for Washington mega egos. Like Russert, he does not rely on good looks or great hair (ha!)- just his smarts.
When Nightline re-structured itself a couple years ago, I remember asking, “What are we going to do without Ted and his arsenal of knowledge?”
Well, here’s our chance to find another outlet for Ted Koppel. We need his voice in the national dialogue. I believe expanding his work beyond the Discovery Network would be great for our democracy and pay tribute to Tim Russert’s tradition of offering the best political journalism every Sunday.