When word emerged yesterday that NBC had named Chuck Todd, currently the Editor-in-Chief of National Journal's "The Hotline," as its new political director, my curiosity as to his personal politics was naturally aroused. I found a MediaBistro article that included this intriguing sentence:
"Before coming to the world of political reporting and analysis, Todd earned practical political experience on initiative campaigns in Florida and various national campaigns based in Washington, D.C."
That in turn naturally raised the question: on just whose national campaigns and which Florida initiatives did Todd work? Deciding to go right to the source, I sent an email to Todd that resulted in an interesting exchange.
Todd responded by indicating that in 1991 he had worked on the presidential campaign of Tom Harkin, the liberal Democratic senator from Iowa, later mentioning that as a youth in 1984 he had also worked casually with his grandfather on Ronald Reagan's campaign. The Florida initiatives were ones concerning a bottle bill and off-shore drilling, Todd having worked on the "green" side of both issues. At the same time, the new political director made these points:
- "I am a fan of the Media Research Center and of Mr. Bozell [MRC founder and president] and am aware of your mission."
- "I only ask that you and your readers before drawing conclusions, judge me on my work over my 15-year career covering politics. I'm an analyst; I don't have an agenda other than making politics interesting and sharing my passion for the subject in a way that will draw more folks into the arena."
- "My politics really is as neutral as it comes; I've gotten so engrossed in the game of campaigns that I don't pigeon-hole anyone. For those familiar with The Hotline, they can vouch for that. I view my job as an analyst. Who's up and who's down and why are they up and why are they down."
As I responded to Todd: "from my perspective it would be nice if, once in a while, someone in your position would have to explain that they don't have an agenda despite having worked for Republican politicians or conservatively-oriented initiatives. Instead, we're asked to accept that neither Chris Matthews nor Tim Russert -- and now you --- have an agenda despite having all worked for liberal Democrats."
By the same token, Chuck Todd's willingness to engage with NewsBusters, his admiration for MRC and Brent Bozell, his long tenure out of partisan politics and in reporting at Hotline, and his avowal of neutral-as-can-be politics, are encouraging. Todd will have a much higher profile than his predecessor as NBC political director, Liz Wilner. In addition to his behind-the-scenes duties, Todd will serve as NBC News' on-air political analyst for "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams," "Today," "Meet the Press with Tim Russert" and MSNBC, including "Hardball with Chris Matthews."
We'll be watching!
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