Meet the Press   |  June 02, 2013

Tom Brokaw: ‘The burden is on both the government and the press’

Seasoned journalist Tom Brokaw shares insights on the relationship between the government and the news media and how that relationship impacts the American people.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> let me bring in tom brokaw who's with us from new york . special correspondent for nbc news, obviously. tom, you've talked about this. this week you've covered and lived through a lot of these in washington . you were struck and tom friedman just mentioned it, by something that walter pinkus wrote in the " washington post ." he wrote, when will journalists take responsibility for what they do without circling the wagons and shouting that the first amendment is under attack when the first amendment advocates say rosen , meaning james rosen of fox news, was falsely characterized as a co-conspirator? they do not understand the law. when others claim this investigation is intimidating a growing number of government sources, they don't understand history. is this is a leadership issue, tom, for the administration? is this purely a press versus government issue?

>> walter pinkus is one of the most serious and senior investigative reporters in washington , d.c. just that statement touched off a moot court debate on the internet. i think it's a combination of all those things. the problem with how you determine whether something is in the public's right to know when it is classified in some fashion doesn't have the law of physics attach toed to it. it's very subjective. everyone has a slightly different opinion. but in most cases when a news kor organization like the associated press or rosen , it begins a dialogue with the government. obviously the administration is scrambling to clean all this up. but it seems to me that on this sunday morning after last week that eric holder still is in the cross hairs here. what did he know? when did he know it? what did he do about it? that will play out this week.

>> do you think this is a real olive branch to news organizations? an off the record meeting to discuss changing the guidelines for how leak investigations are pursued?

>> i think the burden is on both is government and the press to work out a more clear set of guidelines, both for their exchanges with each other and then so that the public can be involved in this as well. as i said earlier, the problem always is that the first amendment, "a," is not unconditional. but at the same time, the burden is on the government. it can be very murky in terms of what the impact is. i talked over the weekend to a very, very senior ex-intelligence official from the united states government . and he laughed. he said, look, this administration and all prior administrations have used classified material when it's been to their political advantage. and he was astonished, by the way, that eric holder , the chief legal officer of the united states , has recused himself in the associated press case. so we still have a way to go here, david.

>> do you think -- you've seen these kind of investigations before. meaning the judiciary investigation, committee investigation of the attorney general. this could be elongated. you have this morning on "the new york times" government officials talking off the record or on background about his effectiveness. does he stay in the job?

>> boy, i think it's tough to see how he does at this case. it's up to the president. what we're seeing "new york times" in the today is that familiar washington two-step. officially getting the endorsement of people like david axelrod and the spokesman for the president. but at the same time, there's another part of that two-step that is going on in which people think it would be better if he left. it would be better for the president to get this cleaned up. he has become obviously the lightning rod for a lot of the criticism just on this panel. and certainly in republican circles. from a political point of view, one of the ways that you can measure the impact of all of this and the fairness of it, think if this had happened in the bush administration with john ashcroft as the attorney general. you know full well the democrats and the left would be going very hard after them with these issues that are in play.

>> tom brokaw , thank you very much. we'll see you coming up on thursday nights this summer on the military channel . your special series of iconic moments in history called "the brokaw files." thanks very much for spending a couple minutes with us this morning.