CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Tonight on an extra edition of HARDBALL, NBC's Tom Brokaw says farewell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW, ANCHOR, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS”: Thanks for all that I have learned from you. That‘s been my richest reward.
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MATTHEWS: This hour, a tribute to one of the most respected journalists of our time. Plus, I‘ll sit down with Tom Brokaw.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews, and this is an extra edition of HARDBALL. Tonight, Tom Brokaw has signed off from “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS” for the last time. He‘s stepping down after more than 20 years as NBC‘s top anchorman. Here‘s what Brokaw told his viewers tonight.
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TOM BROKAW, ANCHOR, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS”: Well, the time is here. We‘ve been through a lot together, through dark days and nights, and seasons of hope and joy. Whatever the story, I had only one objective: to get it right. When I failed, it was personally painful, and there was no greater urgency than course correction. On those occasions, I was grateful for your forbearance and always mindful your patience and attention didn‘t come with a lifetime warranty.
I was not alone here, of course. I am simply the most conspicuous part of a large, thoroughly dedicated and professor staff that extends from just beyond these cameras across the country and around the world, in too many instances, in places of grave danger and personal hardship. And they‘re family to me.
What have I learned here? More than we have time to recount this evening, but the enduring lessons through the decades are these. It‘s not the questions that get us in trouble, it‘s the answers. And just as important, no one person has all the answers.
Just ask a member of the generation I came to know well, men and women who came of age in the Great Depression, who at great personal sacrifice saved the world in World War II and returned home to dedicate their lives to improving the nation they had already served so nobly. They weren‘t perfect—no generation is—but this one left a large and vital legacy of common effort to find common ground here and abroad in which to solve our most vexing problems. They did not give up their personal beliefs and greatest passions, but they never stopped learning from each other. And most of all, they did not give up on the idea that we‘re all in this together.
We still are, and it is in that spirit that I say thanks for all that I have learned from you. That‘s been my richest reward.
That‘s “NIGHTLY NEWS” for this Wednesday night. I‘m Tom Brokaw. You‘ll see Brian Williams here tomorrow night, and I‘ll see you along the way.
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MATTHEWS: Tom Brokaw‘s career here at NBC began in 1966, as a street reporter in Los Angeles. And he went from reporting in L.A. during the tumultuous ‘60s to the White House during Watergate, and then the anchor desk on the TODAY show, before landing one of the most coveted jobs in journalism at “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS.”
Here‘s a look back at Tom‘s remarkable career.
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ANNOUNCER: From NBC News world headquarters in New York, this is “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS” with Tom Brokaw.
BROKAW: Good evening.
MEREDITH BROKAW, TOM‘S WIFE: Tom is a voracious reader. He‘s so curious. And I think this curiosity has just—it‘s been the best marriage between the jobs that he has had as a television newsman and his passion. He has just been so fortunate to go where the action has been happening.
BROKAW: This is Tom Brokaw reporting from the Haight-Ashbury district...
Tom Brokaw, NBC News, at the White House.
Tom Brokaw, NBC News, in southeastern Iraq.
BOB HOPE (SINGING): Thanks for the memories of Brokaw‘s early news, important interviews, the things I learn of great concern and many that amuse. How great is our Tom?
MEREDITH BROKAW: Tom was born in Webster, South Dakota, which is a tiny, tiny, little town. Then he moved up the ladder to Pickstown, and finally to the big town of Yankton, South Dakota. Red and Jean Brokaw, his parents, had three wonderful boys. Tom‘s the oldest. He‘s the first one in his family to go to college.
We have known each other for a very long time. I liked him a lot from the first time that I met him. In 1962, it was a big year in that we graduated from college. We got married. We moved to our first jobs in Omaha, Nebraska.
BROKAW: Good evening. I‘m Tom Brokaw.
JESS MARLOWE, KNBC, LOS ANGELES: Tom and I started at KNBC in 1966. The president was Lyndon Johnson. Vietnam was heating up. There was a good deal of racial tension. Rock-and-roll was on the scene.
JOHN LENNON, THE BEATLES: We meant more to kids than Jesus did.
MARLOWE: Mini-skirts were very popular. Tom was working as a street reporter, and a very good one. He covered all of Los Angeles and much of California.
BROKAW: Tom Brokaw, KNBC News, the site of the tunnel cave-in.
MARLOWE: I was impressed with the fact that he was very young, very confident and very competent, baby face notwithstanding.
BROKAW: Well, that, briefly, is how I see the election. But then you must remember that I also predicted that Shirley Temple would be elected to Congress.
MARLOWE: When Tom got the opportunity to go to the White House, no one could have begrudged him. I think Tom liked politics better than anything else. He had the respect of leaders such as Ronald Reagan. He was perfect for the White House.
BROKAW: Tom Brokaw, NBC News, at the White House. It is clear that President Nixon is actively considering resignation.
MEREDITH BROKAW: Tom‘s career has put us at the epicenter of every major change. It‘s just been astonishing.
MEREDITH BROKAW: Tom‘s timing for going to Washington could not have been better—the Nixon years, Watergate was breaking wide open. And Tom was doing what he does best, a lot of good research, good questions, good contacts, good reporting.
BROKAW: Tom Brokaw, NBC News, at the Great Wall.
BARBARA WALTERS, “TODAY” SHOW CO-HOST 1974-1976: There were a very limited number of reporters who went to China. I was one of them. Tom was one of them. What I remember is getting up in the morning, looking out of my hotel window. There was Tom Brokaw in shorts, running around Tiananmen Square! I mean, no matter what, he was going to do his morning exercise!
HOPE (SINGING): And thanks for the memories of headlines on TV, events that we could see, with Brokaw‘s flair, we could be there, a part of history. How stirring it‘s been.
WALTERS: I left the “TODAY” show in 1976, and Tom became the host. So of Tom could leave being the White House correspondent, where he had to be, you know, fairly authoritative and stern, and come on a program where he had to be warm and he had to laugh, and he had to laugh sometimes at himself. And he was able to do all of that.
MOHAMMED ALI, HEAVYWEIGHT BOXER: I‘m going to hit you 10 times before you count 2.
BROKAW: All right.
ALI: I‘m fair. So let‘s...
ALI: When I say, Go, you say, One, two.
BROKAW: One, two!
ALI: You want to see it again?
JANE PAULEY, “TODAY” SHOW 1976-1989: The network was looking for a partner for Tom. I arrived to do a week of auditions, and the first Monday, the world learned that Mao Zedong was dead. I watched Tom do three, four, maybe even five hours of straight television. There is nobody even comparable to Brokaw to cover breaking news.
BROKAW: Former Beatle John Lennon shot and killed in New York last night.
Twenty-four hours ago, Pope John Paul II was the target of an assassination attempt.
PAULEY: He‘s such a dominating personality while being such a—just a good-hearted, a down-to-earth soul.
BROKAW: Do you want to be president when you grow up?
They are calling this, incidentally, the wedding of the century. I‘ve been trying to avoid that term because who knows? Even in your own neighborhood, there may be one to top it.
HOPE (SINGING): And we thank him so much. Tom, good luck. Hope you stay awake until 7:00 PM.
MEREDITH BROKAW: This is one well-traveled person.
BROKAW: Good evening from Baghdad.
This is Soweto, just outside of Johannesburg.
Good evening once again from Hong Kong.
MEREDITH BROKAW: There isn‘t a suitcase that‘s already packed, but he always knows where his passport is.
BROKAW: General Secretary Gorbachev was already in place when I arrived for our interview.
PAULEY: It was first time the Soviet leader has spoken one on one with an American journalist.
MEREDITH BROKAW: He‘s totally energized once he arrives at a new location.
BROKAW: Good evening, live from the Berlin Wall on the most historic night in this wall‘s history!
MEREDITH BROKAW: He probably would not have given up one of the trips that he‘s been on.
BROKAW: I just got back from a three-hour mission in the back seat of a Tomcat. We went up over Pakistan and then into Afghanistan.
NBC News now projects George Bush is president-elect of the United States.
GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hey, Tom!
I had a certain trust in Tom Brokaw.
A lot of exciting things going on.
BROKAW: I must say.
BUSH: He was fair, he was straight, he was strong.
BROKAW: America has been attacked, and it has been changed.
PAULEY: Tom‘s presence on the air was the most important, the most steadying in that entire time for me.
BROKAW: This is the first great test of the new century for this nation.
War is not about technology, it is about life and death, young men and young women putting their lives on the line in the service of their country.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: We have watched you for so many campaigns. Thanks for the memories.
BROKAW: Oh, thank you. Thank you very much, Senator. That‘s very generous. Thank you very much.
I am so grateful to you for not just the opportunity to do it, but the graciousness with which you have accepted me into your homes, into your lives.
There is sharp conflict—oh, I don‘t believe it! Let‘s do that again.
When did grizzly bears learn to throw snowballs?
· the serious health risks of hormone replacement therapy—oh!
Now, relax! Relax!
Hormone replacement therapy—therapy, therapy, therapy.
Oh, shut up!
President Nixon did not erase the tapes. Was that...
Hormone replacement therapy—therapy—I cannot say the word! I need—I need therapy.
I‘m not having a good day, I‘m telling you.
PAULEY: I‘ve really found that kind of hard to deal with for a while now. When Tom makes history and says good-bye, I‘m going to be...
MEREDITH BROKAW: I had no idea, and neither did Tom, you know, that as we left South Dakota, that this kind of life would unfold.
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MATTHEWS: When we come back, my interview with Tom Brokaw. I asked him about the changes he‘s witnessed in journalism and in politics over his long and distinguished career.
You‘re watching an extra edition of HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Tom Brokaw signed off from “NIGHTLY NEWS” for the final time tonight. On Monday I interviewed Tom, and began by asking him about some of the hottest stories of the time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Tom Brokaw, thanks for joining us tonight on HARDBALL. You know, this event going on, this election dispute, horrendous dispute in Ukraine—you covered the fall of the Berlin Wall. Is this part of the attempt by the old Soviet types to try to control the old empire, including...
BROKAW: Oh, sure. I think that Putin...
MATTHEWS: ... Ukraine?
BROKAW: Putin is trying to consolidate power. He does not want that very politically important, strategically important and resource-rich Russian republic to go to reformers who may be a threat on his flank. Everything he‘s been doing, a little bit undercover because we‘re so distracted here with Iraq and all of our other considerations, is to consolidate power in the hands of this old KGB agent. Those are his instincts.
You know, one of the things that Gorbachev—and I thought it was, in a way, his fatal flaw—was that he thought he could hold the old Soviet empire together. And it is—it did come apart. Now they‘re trying to piece it back together in some fashion. So many of these republics, Chris, are run, effectively, by what we call the nomenklatura. These were people who were Communist Party officials in the Soviet Union days.
BROKAW: And they knew where the levers of power were and how to exercise it. And they‘ve gone back into the system again.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the home front. We‘ve had a big fight ongoing now through this week and through next week on Capitol Hill over how to put together an intelligence operation to protect us from another 9/11. How‘s it going?
BROKAW: Well, I have a slightly contrary point of view to a lot of people. I think it probably is worth taking some time and making sure that we get it right. I think that some of the consideration on the part of Republican committee members is that they don‘t want to give up their power.
BROKAW: And that‘s part of it. The president finds himself between a political rock and a hard place because he resisted the idea of the 9/11 commission, then it was so effective and the families became such a potent political force that he was forced to come back and say, Look, I‘d like to get this done.
But as we learned with the Patriot Act and some other of the legislation that was rushed through right after 9/11, it‘s better if we take a little time, make sure that we‘ve got it right. There‘s chaos in the CIA at the moment. Porter Goss has gone in there. He was given a mandate by the president to reform the organization, and a lot of the career officers are leaving, including the specialists who don‘t have political considerations whatsoever. They‘re analysts. And they‘re bailing out. We went through this once before, and the man who was appointed to be the director of the CIA at that time was George Herbert walker Bush...
BROKAW: ... the president‘s father.
MATTHEWS: You‘ve been critical in a recent interview with “Time” magazine about the failure of the reporters in this country, the journalism world, to adequately cover the rise of the terrorist threat. Any thoughts on that?
BROKAW: I do. You know, look, if you just connect the dots between the attacks on Tanzania and the embassies in Kenya, the USS Cole, the Khobar Towers, going all the way back to the Ronald Reagan years, which was the first big attack on the Marines when they were in Beirut, we didn‘t deal with this as a global threat of some kind. We dealt with it episodically. There were people in Washington at the FBI and other places who said, Terrorism is real, and unfortunately, I think that we didn‘t take it as seriously as we needed to have.
We put on pictures of Osama bin Laden, talked about who he was, what his anger was with...
BROKAW: ... the United States, but we didn‘t make it part of the agenda, I think, as profoundly as we should have.
MATTHEWS: Do you think it‘s a bigger challenge for journalists today to try to get to the bottom of a lot of these things? The Americans rooted for the jahideen to knock the Soviets out of Afghanistan, and all the time, they were emerging—they were an emerging force...
MATTHEWS: ... which was going to cause an East-West jihad, not just a North-South one.
BROKAW: Yes, it‘s a complicated world.
MATTHEWS: It‘s hard to do that, isn‘t it.
BROKAW: It is hard to do that. And it‘s also—it‘s not something that the Western culture has an easy time working its way through. I‘ve spent a lot of time in that part of the world, and the long and the short history of it is complicated, and you run into a lot of dead ends, and that old line about, you know, the enemy of my friend, and all that—that all comes into play here.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the East-West flight—the East-West rivalry between us and the Russians is over or it may recur?
BROKAW: Oh, I don‘t...
MATTHEWS: Is it all going to be...
BROKAW: I think it‘s over...
MATTHEWS: Is it all going to be North-South now?
BROKAW: Is I think it‘s over in the largest sense, but what I think is in our interest is for Russia to be stable and to make progress economically and make gross politically and not to have a closed society again...
BROKAW: ... for a variety of reasons. You know, I think Putin has a very taxing job before him to try to turn that ship around. And a lot of the oligarchs have gone in there and they‘ve taken a lot of money out of it, but nonetheless, I honestly believe that it‘s in Russia‘s best interest to have more openness, not less, that they‘re going to go through a difficult passage. And I think that we have to pay more attention to the kind of difficulty that we‘re going through. Every time during the Clinton administration, when we‘d send them aid money, it would disappear down a dark hole and...
BROKAW: ... pop up in somebody‘s secret bank account in Zurich because...
MATTHEWS: The president said he can see into Putin‘s soul.
BROKAW: Yes. I find that hard to believe.
MATTHEWS: You know, a little too difficult to...
BROKAW: Yes, I‘ve...
MATTHEWS: ... a little too murky to be seen?
BROKAW: I‘ve spent time with Putin, and he‘s—you know, I wouldn‘t make that claim. I spent several hours with him in the Kremlin. I had a dinner for him here in New York, where he came and had a very robust conversation with a lot of reporters who were very familiar with his part of the world. This is a guy who spent most of his life as a martial arts expert and as a KGB agent. That tells you a lot about who he is.
MATTHEWS: A lot of cover there.
BROKAW: He‘s a lot of tough guy.
BROKAW: You know? And for someone who is so slight, in martial arts, he was apparently a champion at what he did. So he knows about the exercise of power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: When we return, I‘ll ask Tom about the changes he‘s seen in the coverage of the White House from the early days of his career to today.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. From 1973 to 1976, Tom Brokaw was NBC‘s White House correspondent. I asked him how the coverage of the White House has changed over the years since he was there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Back when you were starting to cover the White House, back in the ‘70s, the Carter administration, then the Reagan administration, do you think the coverage by reporters was more adversarial, more aggressive than it is today of President Bush in that world of the White House press room?
BROKAW: Well, I—you know, I...
MATTHEWS: Or is it more—are they better at managing...
BROKAW: I started covering it during Nixon, so it was in the middle of Watergate.
BROKAW: So it was going to be adversarial. I think when you go back before that, it wasn‘t very adversarial with Lyndon Johnson. You had the old lions of the press corps against the old lion of American politics, Lyndon Johnson, even though Vietnam was under way at that time. There were some difficult moments, but not nearly like what it was during...
MATTHEWS: Well, was that better for the country to have tougher back-and-forth than we have...
BROKAW: I thin it‘s tougher to—I think it‘s better for the country to have a tougher back-and-forth. I don‘t think it can be form alone, though. That‘s what I always say. If you‘re going to pick a fight with the White House press secretary, make sure that it has real meaning. Don‘t do it just to show off to your fellow members of the White House press corps.
MATTHEWS: You mean for the cameras.
BROKAW: Yes. Make sure that you think it through, that you‘re not just in some kind of improve theater there...
BROKAW: ... in the White House press briefing room and show, I‘m going to be tough today.
MATTHEWS: How would you rate this White House for its press management?
BROKAW: Oh, it‘s been very good, I think.
MATTHEWS: I mean, tough. Like, you hear—you read about Cheney saying, No “New York Times” reporters on my trips, that kind of stuff.
BROKAW: Yes. Yes. I think that they‘ve been too tough. I think—the idea that this White House has not given Tom Friedman a long, in-depth interview is astonishing to me.
MATTHEWS: But it‘s not...
BROKAW: And they‘ve been...
MATTHEWS: ... inexplicable.
BROKAW: I‘ve had a very good relationship with them.
BROKAW: I‘ve gotten to interview the president a lot. I‘ve had access on the phone and other areas, and I think I‘ve been very vigorous...
BROKAW: ... in my discussions with them. But no reporter that I know covering national politics and the international policies that are of such great concern to us today know as much about them as Tom Friedman does. And they‘ve completely shut out “The New York Times.”
MATTHEWS: Well, how do we get good journalism at a time when the White House is proficient at this sort of manipulation, that they can cut out somebody that important, or anyone?
BROKAW: Right. Part of it is that the best journalism doesn‘t come from within the White House press briefing room.
BROKAW: It comes from reading the documents...
BROKAW: ... and working from the outside in and from the bottom up. You know, what the—what you have the White House press corps for is—and I‘m not demeaning what they‘re doing because I was member of that press corps—but is keep track of what the president‘s doing on a daily business, be on the trips. Some of it is in case something untoward happens that you‘re there. But...
MATTHEWS: Death watch.
BROKAW: Yes. But give big picture policy.
BROKAW: But then you also have to be covering the administration from the documents and from the bills that are sent up to the Hill and the kinds of appointments that they have and the things that are done out of sight of the White House press briefing room.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about other kinds of reporting. We had Neil Sheehan during the Vietnam war, a great reporter, “A Brief Shining Lie.” We had David Halberstam, one of the great journalists ever. That kind of strategic reporting, not day-to-day, not embedment, but out there saying, Let‘s think this through on a different level—do you think we missed some of that during our current war in Iraq?
BROKAW: No, I think we‘re doing pretty well with that, actually. I think that—having been in Baghdad, I know what the restrictions are there, in terms of just moving around.
BROKAW: It‘s an extraordinarily dangerous place, more dangerous, I think, than Vietnam was. There‘s just no sanctuary anymore for any of these people. We‘re seeing that in the combat casualties that we‘re getting too many reports of every day. But I think Jim Miklaszewski and David Martin and the other people covering the Pentagon have been doing a good job of standing back and saying...
MATTHEWS: Seeing the whole thing.
BROKAW: ... This is the big picture here.
MATTHEWS: Do you think it‘s the role of the anchorperson or the anchorman to make a big call, like Cronkite did back in the Vietnam war—
I think it was about ‘68 -- when he said, We‘re not going to win this thing, I‘ve just come back? Is that too big a call for an anchorman today to say something like that?
BROKAW: I think what you do is that you let the facts make the argument. You know, I went over there and—last year. And one of the things that I said was that it the test of our success in Iraq will not be in the first phase of so-called major combat, but what comes after. I was just looking again at some...
MATTHEWS: These elections, for example .
BROKAW: Right, these stories that I was doing, and I talked to General Sanchez at the time—and this was in July of last year—and I said, how much time do you have? Because I had been hearing a lot from CIA and other people who were on the ground there that they felt they only had 30 to 60 days to get it right or it could come unraveled on them. And he said that at that time, and I made that a big piece of our reporting, that they believed the tipping point was coming unless they get it right. Well, the tipping point did arrive and it tipped over, and we are in a fair amount of chaos, trying to work our way towards these elections. And I think that‘s the next tipping point.
MATTHEWS: If the Sunnis refuse to participate, if they are joined by the Kurds, is that a catastrophe?
BROKAW: It‘s a huge blow to the integrity of the elections.
MATTHEWS: And therefore we should hold them or not?
BROKAW: That‘s not for me to say.
MATTHEWS: That‘s a policy call, I‘m sorry.
BROKAW: That‘s a big—that‘s a big policy point.
MATTHEWS: But in terms of what was expected of this campaign...
BROKAW: But if they are held, if they‘re held, I don‘t think anyone will believe in the integrity of the outcome of them, because the Shia have an obvious majority and they‘ll run it. It was a big problem.
There were some other things said during the campaign as well. The president kept saying we have 100,000 people trained in the Iraqi national security forces, both national guard and police—well, we didn‘t have. You know, we had maybe 25,000 people who were capable of taking their place beside the American troops. When you look at the Fallujah operation, that was an almost entirely American operation, despite the announcement of Don Rumsfeld going in that this invasion is being led by Iraqi forces, who are assisted by American and coalition forces.
MATTHEWS: Yeah, that was optimistically said.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, much more of my interview with Tom Brokaw.
When we return, I‘ll ask him about Dan Rather, who is stepping down as anchor at CBS.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
On Monday, I interviewed Tom Brokaw, whose final night on “NBC Nightly News” was tonight. I asked Tom about Dan Rather, who is stepping down as the main anchor over at CBS.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a tough question about your colleague and I know you respect him a lot, Dan Rather. He is going to step down next spring. What do you think went wrong with that reporting on the documents down in Texas? Was it the source, the producer, or the fact that the managing editor stuck with the story too long? He just wouldn‘t—he wouldn‘t say we‘ve had it with this story?
BROKAW: I guess it was a combination of all. But I have been saying, in fairness to CBS News and Dan and the others that are involved, is that they have a big investigation under way. We‘ll know the results of that. On the face of it, a big mistake was made. They know that at this point. And they hung onto the idea that these were authentic documents, in my judgment far too long.
MATTHEWS: Like those little ‘T-H‘s that appeared next to the numbers weren‘t the normal Sergeant Krupke‘s typewriter keys.
BROKAW: They would raise a lot of flags, and they did for us here.
We‘ve now looked at them.
MATTHEWS: Right. You saw them, the documents.
BROKAW: Yes. But having said all of that, you know, look, no member of his generation has been—had as many big stories as Dan Rather has had. You can‘t take that away from him.
Now, you know, Dan and I have been personal competitors for a long, time. He is a hot reporter.
MATTHEWS: He is a risk taker, isn‘t he?
BROKAW: He is a risk taker.
MATTHEWS: He gets out, trying to take the shot.
BROKAW: Lightning rod for controversy. He‘s done some things that I‘ve raised my eyebrows on. Why would you do that?
But having said all that, you know, a life is a mosaic. It has got a lot of parts to it, and I think you ought to look at it in that fashion.
MATTHEWS: Do you think, I mean, you and he and certainly Cronkite, you know, have created the nightly news—I guess you go all the way back to the “Camel Cavalcade of News,” I guess, going all the way back—but in terms of big numbers, you have had the big audiences. When you leave, are some lights going to go out in terms of viewership? Are people just going to say, I‘m not going to look at that particular institution, the evening news, anymore as much as I used to?
BROKAW: Well, not in the Brian Williams‘ household they are not going to go out. No...
MATTHEWS: Do you think it‘s something about just the tremendous personality...
BROKAW: I think we have to be careful about projecting that, because I really think, you know, that it‘s—what we have learned is that these broadcasts can be dynamic. In some households they may go out, in other households they may come on. And I think we owe it to Brian to let him go earn his place in all of that, and let the audience make a judgment about whether they are going to turn the lights on or off.
MATTHEWS: I wasn‘t thinking about the NBC transition as much as the idea of the habit. The habit. When people are getting home at 7:30, people, both spouses are working, that it is—you have to almost be retired to be available at that time—and some markets, as you know, have them coming on—your program coming on even earlier, you know, for the early bird special folks, at 5:30 at night. How can working people live that?
BROKAW: But when I was working in Los Angeles, one of the things that we learned—there used to be just the 6:00 news, and then the 6:30 “Huntley-Brinkley Report.”
BROKAW: When we went on the air at 5:00 in the afternoon—and they now go on I think at 4:00 -- is that there was a huge audience at 5:00, because of just what you‘ve described. There is a shift and another shift and another shift that comes after that. People are pouring into the system.
Yes, some people get home at 7:30. Other people get home at 3:30 in the afternoon, and they‘re looking for something that isn‘t...
MATTHEWS: You mean the guy that goes on—on work at 6:00 in the morning, for example.
BROKAW: Yeah. And it‘s not just the guy, you know. School teachers have those kinds of schedules, in some cases. Firemen do. Retailers do. Hospital workers do. So we‘re not an 8:00 to 5:00 nation anymore.
MATTHEWS: Yeah, it‘s interesting. Let me ask you about your pal, Dick Ebersol, and this tragedy. Is it hard to report on friends?
BROKAW: Yeah, it is. I just—my heart—I can barely talk about it.
BROKAW: It‘s a real nightmare. I know his family very well, and I know Susan, and I actually knew Susan before she and Dick were married, and I know how much their boys mean to them, and it‘s hard.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s pray for the best. Tom, thank you.
BROKAW: OK, thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thanks for coming on the program.
MATTHEWS: HARDBALL will return in a moment with a rare look at the making of the NBC News theme music with composer John Williams.
But, first, here‘s how “The Today Show” bid farewell to Tom Brokaw this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TODAY SHOW”)
MATT LAUER, CO-HOST: People here gathering are members of your staff at “NBC Nightly News.”
KATIE COURIC, CO-HOST: They actually...
LAUER: And they are coming in because they want to toast you with champagne in hand. And, as they want to do it, so do we, Tom. And we just want to say, can you give us the glasses here?
COURIC: A little bubbly.
LAUER: There you go.
COURIC: Oh, thank you.
TOM BROKAW, NBC ANCHOR: See, that is the difference between “The Today Show” and “Nightly News.” You have a champagne budget.
COURIC: And someone who brings it out on a silver tray.
BROKAW: A silver tray, right.
LAUER: It‘s simple.
LAUER: It is from a song, but nobody does it better and no one ever has, Tom.
BROKAW: Well, it‘s very sweet. I—it‘s been a great, great privilege. Thank you.
COURIC: Congratulations and all the best, Tom.
BROKAW: I didn‘t think I was going to do that.
COURIC: It kind of snuck up on you.
COURIC: And we‘ll be back right after this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): So thanks for the memory of Brokaw‘s expertise that enhances NBC‘s. We know you‘ll climb at any time. He does it in a breeze. And we thank you him so much. Tom, good luck.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back.
John Williams is one of America‘s best known and best loved contemporary composers. Williams has scored some of the biggest blockbuster movies of our time.
And, as NBC‘s Lester Holt reports, there‘s one Williams‘ composition you can hear every night here on NBC.
LESTER HOLT, NBC ANCHOR (voice-over): He‘s one of the most prolific men in movie music and his memorable themes have been enriching our moviegoing experience for decades.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SUPERMAN”)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Not so high! Not so high!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “JURASSIC PARK”)
RICHARD ATTENBOROUGH, ACTOR: Welcome to Jurassic Park.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLT: John Williams, an American classic. He‘s worked on nearly 80 films. And that music has earned him five Academy Awards, 18 Grammys, four Emmys, as well as several gold and platinum records.
But there‘s only one Williams composition that plays seven days a week on network television. It‘s called “The Mission,” and it‘s been the NBC News theme for nearly two decades. Now 20 years later, he‘s in the historic Sony scoring stage in Culver City, California, with a 99-piece orchestra to rerecord the music of NBC News, a new digitally remastered version of “The Mission,” music that has clearly withstood the test of time.
JOHN WILLIAMS, COMPOSER: This music that we‘re recording was first done about 20 years ago. And I was thrilled when people at NBC said, would you like to record it again as kind of an anniversary gesture and also to develop some of the materials, to have some new little signature things that are in some cases entirely new, in other cases, that employ what I think of as a sort of NBC News call note in “The Mission” theme.
Play me once more, hear the horn on three. Just (UNINTELLIGIBLE) One, two, three, pitch, pitch. Trombones, I hear too much, not enough—really think about the pitch, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) really is evenly (UNINTELLIGIBLE) evenly matched.
One, two, three.
Of course, perfection is an elusive thing and probably doesn‘t exist. But it‘s something that we all—as the cliche has it, it‘s the horizon that we can see and never get to. In the case of this music, it‘s a perfection that we look for in the performance of it and in the recording of it, and, in the case of what I do, to refine the instrumentation and the writing of the music itself.
It‘s just a lovely opportunity for me, this has been, to revisit what is now an old friend that we hear. We hear all this music on NBC all the time when they give us the news. What‘s wonderful particularly about this NBC usage is the fact that we‘ve had the opportunity use a full symphony orchestra. And it is a particularly thrilling sound. The invention of the orchestra, with woodwinds and strings and percussions, it is one of the great artistic inventions of the Western civilization. There‘s nothing quite like it.
It disturbs the air in such a wonderful way, these strings that are all—these instruments that are 200 or 300 years old, and you can‘t improve upon them.
MATTHEWS: When we come back, we‘ll have the results of all that work and something few people have ever heard all the way through. We‘re coming back with a special performance of “The Mission,” John Williams‘ theme music for NBC News.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Before the break, we showed you composer John Williams and his symphony orchestra rehearsing a piece called “The Mission,” which has become the theme music for NBC News.
Now we have a special presentation. Its something few people have heard in full, the entire NBC News theme by John Williams.
WILLIAMS: One, two, three. Speak.
MATTHEWS: That‘s the music of John Williams for NBC News.
I just want to saw that Tom Brokaw is a leader. And as managing editor of “The Nightly News,” he‘s had to choose between the soft and the hard, the facts and the conjecture, the important and the not so important. Tom is a great political reporter. And he really believes in the American political system. He set high standard. And he is, of course, a shining role model for all of us who do this work.
Be sure to tune in to “NBC Nightly News” tomorrow night, as Brian Williams makes his debut.
And we‘ll see you again tomorrow night at our regular time, 7:00 Eastern, for more HARDBALL with the outgoing head of the NAACP, Kweisi Mfume, former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, and Patti Davis, the daughter of President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan and the sister of our colleague Ron Reagan.
Right now, it‘s time for “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”
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