Former NBC Nighty News anchor Tom Brokaw visited the Today show set, on Thursday, to play referee, or more specifically daddy, in the debate surrounding the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords as he pontificated that it was "time for the parents to say time out" on the heated political rhetoric. However he then went on to question how Sarah Palin could dare to respond to all the personal attacks on her, many by some of Brokaw's colleagues on MSNBC, as he opined: "I was surprised that she waded back into it frankly."
On to discuss Barack Obama's performance at a memorial service for victims of the Tuscon shooting, Brokaw told Today co-anchor Meredith Vieira, that even though the service, as Vieira herself noticed, seemed more like a "pep rally" at times, Obama was simply doing his best to "Keep the mood of the crowd ebullient." Brokaw then scolded: "I would think that on the political, what I call the political poles, on both ends, it's probably time for the parents to say time out. You know let's, let's take a break here for a couple of days and reflect on what we've been through and where we need to go."
Later on in the segment Vieira prompted Brokaw to weigh-in on the temerity of Sarah Palin, to dare to defend herself as she asked: "Talking about pointing fingers...your views on Sarah Palin and her accusing the journalists of blood libel for blaming political rhetoric on what happened?" Brokaw responded: "I was surprised that she waded back into it frankly...I was surprised that she got back into it in the way that she did. I think we gotta move beyond that."
The following is the full segment with Brokaw as it was aired on the January 13 Today show:
MEREDITH VIEIRA: Now let's welcome in NBC's Tom Brokaw. Tom, good morning to you.
TOM BROKAW: Good morning.
[On screen headline: "Defining Moment? President Obama Moves Crowd In Tucson"]
VIEIRA: I want to talk about last night's memorial service where the President spoke. There's been so much finger-pointing, since this shooting, about civility in this country and whether harsh political rhetoric somehow motivated that attack in Tuscon. How did the President do in addressing that debate?
BROKAW: Right. He said flatly, last night, this was not the result of the absence of civil discourse and political talk. But then he said, in a challenge to this country, but it is that civil discourse and talk that we need to face the challenges ahead of us, in a way that will make the victims of this shooting proud. And what he did, by saying that, it seems to me, is to say we honor their memory if we all begin to change our ways here. Most of us this absence of civil discourse is taking place on the extremes, left and right. In the vast middle of the country, where I spent a lot of time in the last year-and-a-half, people long for folks to get together again. And these are reminders that for all of the size of this country and its power we can be reduced to one family on Main Street. And I think that's what happened in Tucson.
VIEIRA: And yet there was some criticism last night, in the way he addressed the crowd. At times it felt more like a pep rally than it did a memorial service. You saw the crowd standing, standing ovation several times.
BROKAW: Well that wasn't his fault. I mean, you know, we've seen this before. When Paul Wellstone died in Minnesota there was a rally around him, among his supporters, as well. I think it was a tricky piece for the President. Because he was trying to keep the mood of the crowd ebullient, because she opened her eyes, but at the same time he had an important message that he wanted to convey. I would think that on the political, what I call the political poles, on both ends, it's probably time for the parents to say time out. You know let's, let's take a break here for a couple of days and reflect on what we've been through and where we need to go. Because there are enormous challenges out there, across the board, that really don't have as much of a political ideology attached to them as some would suggest.
VIEIRA: Do you think his message will continue to play out in the State of the Union Address?
BROKAW: Oh I'm sure it will.
BROKAW: I'm sure, I'm sure it will be an extension of that. And with or without the shooting this is a discussion we needed to have in this country. We do have profound issues before us, not just here at home. But we're at war, the longest wars in America's history. China is suddenly showing a very robust side in terms of its military ambitions. There are a lot of issues that we need to deal with and we're spending and wasting a lot of our time by just pointing fingers at each other.
[On screen headline: "Defining Moment? Sarah Palin Breaks Silence On Tucson Tragedy"]
VIEIRA: Meanwhile, talking about pointing fingers, your, your views on Sarah Palin and her accusing the journalists of blood libel for blaming political rhetoric on what happened.
BROKAW: I was surprised that she waded back into it frankly. And I had a friend in Washington, many years ago, during Watergate, who said that journalists have glass jaws. They throw the punches all day long, but when somebody swings back, they go down, whimpering all the way. You see this on both sides, frankly. So I was surprised that she got back into it in the way that she did. I think we gotta move beyond that.
VIEIRA: Why do you think she did?
BROKAW: Why did she do it?
BROKAW: You have to talk to her advisers, talk to her about it. I don't, I don't have a pipe there. And she does it in a way, that no one can examine it. You know she sits here in Alaska. This is what they've decided is in her best interests. And we'll see how it plays out. But I was surprised.
—Geoffrey Dickens is the Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here