NBC Meet the Press host David Gregory spoke on Tuesday at the City Club in Seattle, Washington, and John Hamer of the Washington News Council reported on Gregory's remarks, which he found pretty bland. He found some spice in Gregory's answers to audience questions.
On Jon Stewart's "sanity" rally on Halloween weekend: "He's a comedian, but he's also got a point of view. I think what they do is serious. It's not a joke." However, "They are part of the media polarization." As for Stewart: "He asks tough questions. He does a great job. I admire him a lot."
On suddenly retired columnist (and former UPI reporter) Helen Thomas: "I think Helen lost her way. I don't know when that happened..I thought she was miscast as the 'dean of the press corps.' She was a polemicist. Her views in the press corps were well known."
Left unsaid (at least from this report): None of the star White House reporters ever questioned the "Helen the Dean" legend, including Gregory. They underlined it. They only abandoned that position once she lashed out at the rabbi that Jews should "get the hell out" of Israel and "go home" to Germany. There's more:
The blogosphere, naturally, is weighed down with a whole lot of er, excrement: "I like to see what the Zeitgeist is in that community, but even with millions of people it's a limited community. It can be an echo chamber. It can be partisan in one way or another..Is there some good reporting that goes on? Of course. But there's also a whole lot of crap. It's not a monolith."
The Tea Party, and sigh, its racist elements: It's a "populist, conservative, small-government, anti-Washington [D.C.] movement," upset with "bailouts" and "too much deficit spending." Also: "And a real antipathy toward Obama that in some cases is racism." (Hamer said, "Easy to say. Any clear evidence?")
Obama not "big enough" to get advice from Dubya: "Certainly President Obama is not as popular as he would like to be - or as he was expected to be." Gregory said Rahm Emanuel told Obama that he "had to get close to Bill Clinton," and Obama did that. "President Obama is not going to be big enough to call on President Bush all that often."
As for his own job, Gregory was asked if he missed the White House front-row seat. He called Meet the Press "is the ultimate front row. This is the ultimate job..We try to set the agenda. We try to move the story forward. We try to make news - and we do." He said the show's mission is accountability, relevance, constructive engagement, thoughtful discussion. It's a place to 'put it all together.'" But, he lamented: "There ought to be more outlets where we're really listening to each other, not waiting to pounce. We don't have enough intellectual spontaneity. I like to see people really wrestling with issues."
Like many "mainstream" media types, Gregory sang the Scarborough song about too much divisiveness in politics:
"We've always been polarized," and that is "compounded by a media culture that has become increasingly polarized..I just don't feel like constructive engagement with the other side is something that's celebrated anymore..There's a big political center in this country but we tend to write them off."
Replied Hamer: "This from the 'firebrand in the front row' whose current show delights in conflict?"