The Daily Nightly from NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams

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The Daily Nightly began on May 31, 2005. As Brian wrote in his first post it aims to provide a narrative of the broadcast day and a window into the editorial process at NBC Nightly News. Brian weighs in every weekday and NBC News correspondents and producers post regularly.

Brian Williams became the seventh anchor and managing editor in the history of NBC Nightly News on December 2, 2004. Read his full biography.

NEW YORK STATE OF MIND

We're back home tonight, and after two days of heavy Katrina coverage, the news today is mostly dominated by a particularly violent spike in Iraq. We will also look at the politics of the war -- and what appears to be the emergence of a new message from the Administration. Also tonight, we know more about the final moments before takeoff for the ComAir flight that crashed killing 49 souls on board in Lexington, Kentucky. The investigation is quickly pointing out the cracks in our aviation system -- while those of us who follow the industry closely were quite familiar with them. There is other news today as well, and additionally tonight we'll have another installment in our continuing series on Baby Boomers in America.

We'll run another new (to our audience) portion of our conversation with the President on tonight's broadcast.  I returned from New Orleans to find thousands of emails (I often ask that they be printed out so that I can take them home, travel with them and go through them quickly, while sticking to my vow to read them all) neatly divided into two main categories: our Katrina coverage (overwhelmingly positive) and our interview with President Bush. 

On the latter topic, I was taken aback somewhat by what seems to be the prevailing (70/30) opinion -- apparently echoed today by Rush Limbaugh -- that I was somehow "disrespectful" in the interview. 

Several things here: While I don't know the President outside of the parameters my job, he has always shown me great kindness, we've always gotten on well, and when we parted company yesterday, he was of good cheer and seemed satisfied with our time together (and notably was in NO hurry to end the interview) as were members of the White House staff. My job, remember, is to report...ask questions...and serve as advocate for our viewers who don't get the chance to ask questions of the President themselves. Any charge of "disrespect" deservedly gets my attention, because of my profound respect for the office and its occupants. In fact, one of the topics of conversation any time I'm with the President is our shared interest in Presidential history -- which we discussed during some private time yesterday. I note that one viewer has written complaining of "unprofessionalism" in my "tone of questioning and facial expressions." 

Perhaps some background will help. What we aired yesterday, and will again tonight, was a rather spontaneous, strolling interview in the hot afternoon sun in New Orleans. It was to have been taped an hour later, but the President was understandably anxious to greet the people who'd been waiting for him and Mrs. Bush in the heat -- so we gladly obliged, and things got underway very suddenly. He is, as has been widely reported in this space and elsewhere, a man who truly seems to enjoy the give-and-take and verbal "combat" that often comes with good conversation. He indicated to me more than once yesterday that he was anxious to have a robust discussion. Perhaps because the backdrop and circumstances of yesterday's interview differed so much from the norm -- the conventional presidential interview we've become used to seeing -- people saw something different that struck them as negative in some way. Asking tough questions is one thing, but I am constitutionally unable to be disrespectful around the President of the United States.

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COMMENTS

I agree with Representative Charlie Rangel's most resent proposal regarding reinstating registration for 'the draft.' But that should be only the beginning.

It is well known that only the most patriotic and lest privileged among us serve in the all-volunteer armed forces. But our all-volunteer services are not representative of our society as a whole. ALL Americans should serve the nation in some way. Here's the reasons why, with a real American plan:

I strongly feel it would be a privilege, and positive, life-enriching, educational and maturation factor in the lives of America's young adults to serve a mandatory period of service to the nation, with the additional goals of providing increased security or defense for our nation, the promotion of our democratic values, and to help those in this country and around the world who are oppressed or less fortunate. As a wartime veteran myself, I have found this to be so. This service could take the form of a mandatory period of contribution to the United States of America of at least two years in either a branch of the military, the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps or some other approved national-service entity.

The way it stands now, not all strata of society serve the nation equally. It is incongruous and shameful that we take for granted that the under privileged and the poor alone should serve and defend the nation along side the most patriotic volunteers and military academy graduates.

A major advantage of a mandatory period of service is that all become at least minimally prepared to be citizen soldiers, or to assist first responders and other full-time law enforcement agencies. It has become obvious in recent years that the National Guard and Ready Reserve cannot shoulder the weight of all these commitments, nor can the Red Cross and other such relief agencies.

Another superb advantage of mandatory national service is educational. Most of our youth, and an embarrassingly high percentage of adults, know nothing of national or world geography, history, sociology, civics, cultures, or languages and other factors alien to their own immediate surroundings. (A recent poll showed hardly any member of Congress, and even fewer in a random sample of the general public, knew the difference between Shites, Sunnis, and Kurds -- and this after 3 1/2 years of war in Iraq.)

Service to this republic should not be portrayed as "a draft" -- synonymous in the minds of most as a one-way ticket to Iraq or some other battle front. From inception, this union has known that, to survive, all might have to become citizen soldiers at one time or another. That was an accepted fact of this grand experiment.

Since WWII, however, that necessary pride of service by all to this nation has waned until it is now accepted that there are some societal classes that need not serve the nation in even the areas of most minimum need, lest it divert them from some "greater career aspirations and goals." I need not name names.

National service, mandatory or otherwise, should be seen similar to life-long education, as an ongoing long-term commitment BY ALL AMERICANS to serve the nation in some very meaningful capacity in the areas where it is most needed -- NOT were it is most convenient to the individual.

That, my friends, is patriotism. If this is a surprise to most, then it is just as obvious we need to relearn what patriotism is. Words without action are meaningless, to paraphrase the scripture.

The media has proven itself just as under-educated and has not thus far helped shepherd a serious discussion about national service, or in fully understanding the concept and its implications -- not while running such headlines or captions as "Rangel Wants to Send Your Kids to War."

I truly believe that after a couple of generations of mandatory national service, our obligations, military and otherwise, to the destiny of humankind as temporary residents of this republic would again be seen as an accepted and necessary right of passage and educational experience without which an individual's life journey would be noticeably diminished, as would this nation in which we are all blessed to live.

As a 100% service-connected Vietnam era disabled veteran, I ask all who read this to support Rangel's proposal and contact your representatives and senator to support this proposal.

Thanks Brian for asking the questions about the Katrina fiasco to which we deserve answers. Mr. Bush must be a great host at the BBQ in Crawford, pounding down some brewskies (with a few pretzels to wash it down), and breaking wind in his own folksy style.

People not paying attention:

Nobody asked Bush to apologize for ther levees. The apology is for letting 30,000 people suffer in the Superdome for a week.

Additionally: When Lord Viceroy Cheney wandered into N.O. and that guy shouted: "Hey, Cheney! F!!! YOU!" - *that* was disrepectful, and I will love that man forever. I wonder how badly he was beaten?

I'm glad to see that at least the current President of the United States sets an example for American students by having a summer reading list. Keeps him in touch with the youth of America and it would be great if other Adults shared their own summer reading lists in an effort to set an example rather then criticizing the President for having one. It sounds like from the interview with First Lady Bush and Mr. Williams’ discussion with the President, education and support of education was a subject matter discussed.

Oh while I’m up on the soapbox, has anyone ever notice that there are distinct local dialects and ways of talking between State to State as well as geographical locations? Southern, Northern, Midwestern, Texas (everything is big in TX and it’s a big State that has its own culture), and “like fer sure” West Coast dialects and linguistics which define us in these “hare” States of ours.

I’d be curious to learn the opinion of a journalist concerning the UCMJ, 11 general orders, responsibility of Commander and Chief (no political affiliation involved), rolls and responsibilities of the Air National Guard and National Guard vs rolls and responsibility of the President of the United States, Federal vs Local Government, Military Investigation into 9/11 verses the politically appointed Committee, properly reliving the “watch” 5 years ago and who should have been brought up on “court martial” charges involving dereliction of duty.

As a Veteran of the U. S. Navy who filled the role of Legal YN at my first Command, there would have been no doubt that Ex-president Clinton would have been brought up on charges if on “his watch” foreign nationals entered into this country and then committed the atrocities of 9/11 – at least if he was enlisted he would have been. Although Officers and above carry the responsibility of their own oaths for life, so I don’t think it’s too late to push our Government and the Military into looking into President Clinton and First Lady Clinton’s responsibilities involving the events of 9/11. I believe they both were present during the Inauguration Oaths of Office 3 times for them to be aware of what the responsibilities of Commander and Chief were\are to the military and civilian population of this Country.

FBI and CIA use to report to the Office of the President of the United States who was responsible for weigh the information involving national security, and if that fell to the Commander and Chief of the Armed Forces in 2000, why does the current Commander and Chief get the flack? I think the FBI and CIA both wore the black eyes in the past, but I don’t think the responsibility was theirs alone. My opinion, President Bush is adhering to those 11 general orders because American lives were lost on American soil and he will not make that mistake while he is the President. Please don’t take my word for it, look up the information in paragraph three.

It was the Sentry’s responsibility to inform the Reliving Sentry of the any security concerns when the Sentry was properly relived. President Clinton was responsible to inform President Elect Bush of security concerns. But what would that have meant to Senator Clinton political aspirations? Stay tuned folks, because some day a report chit just might come forward and we just might find out that the man from Texas was more concerned about America, then others who continued in politics for personal reasons.

Brian,
I think it is great that you interjected that it was NOT Iraq who came to our soil in your interview with Bush. Yet, I still can't help but wonder what else you could could have and can still do to reveal the truth about this odiously corrupt administration, and yes, a President who is supposed to be working for us, not the other way around.
Suz Andreasen
Witness - Sept 11, 2001, NYC

Brian,

The interview was excellent, and you were professional as always. You asked some great questions; sadly we didn't get any serious answers back from the President. It is even more shameful that the "leader" of our great nation cannot even form a coherent thought or sentence. And even though we did not get real answeres back; the interview revealed so much about our president. I don't know how you kept a straight face when he said he had read "three Shakespeares." Thank you Brian for asking good questions. I for one am tired of all the scripted photo opps. and spin of this incompetent administration. What I don't see now and what I want to see is a competent leader with an "actual plan" for Iraq, amongst other things. November 7th could not come fast enough for me.

I just have to say that, while I wish you had pursued certain areas further and not let him get away with certain things, on the whole you asked real questions of the president and tried to challenge him in a RESPECTFUL way. Our president has not earned our respect, but it is still appropriate to treat him respectfully. What I find sad is that his supporters don't want him asked anything difficult. I WANT reporters to ask my candidates tough questions, because I relish their answers, AS LONG AS the reporters have a truly open mind, not the fake fairness that Bush has been manipulating for 6 years. Bush believes that if Democrats say the truth and he says a lie, then the media needs to report in the middle. You largely rejected that vision of the world in your approach.

Brian,

I was disappointed with the way your interview with the President was conducted. While all questions are fair game, I thought your attitude, delivery, and pointing your finger at the President were disrespectful. Even if you or NBC may not agree with the President's policies, you should show more respect for our President. I have been watching NBC for over 30 years but after watching this interview, I may have to switch over to Katie.

Congratulations on a tough Bush interview. I also appreciate that you had the decency not to point out that the Emperor had no clothes.

I hate it when interviewers ask talk about Bush having to apologize for Katrina. Its not like he want and broke the levees!

Reading all these emails about your (fabulous) interview, I noticed the vast majority of the negative ones don't sign their names. My conspiratorial mind sees a vast Republican email/call center populated with Young Republicans typing furiously to try to counter all the positive responses here. I wouldn't put it past them. So who's next, Brian. Get Cheney. Get Rummy. Get Ricey. We can't leave it to the "Daily Show" and "Colbert Report" to do all the truly expository tape of this bunch of chicken-hawks. If they weren't so dangerous, they would be hilarious. Unless the American people wake up, I expect one of two things, or both: 1) war with Iran, 2) after losing the 2008 elections, they say "We think we'll just remain in office anyhow. We can't allow the country to change leadership in the middle of a war."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
WARNING: Due to Presidential Executive Orders, the National Security Agency may have read this email, my blog postings, and listen to my private phone conversations without warrant, warning, or notice, and certainly without probable cause. They may do this without any judicial or legislative oversight. We have no recourse nor protection save to call for the impeachment of the current President.

"Remember, all that Hitler did was legal in Germany at the time." ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."  ~Theodore Roosevelt, 1918

"Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God." ~Thomas Jefferson (Motto on his seal)

“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”  ~James Madison

 "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their country." ~George Washington

"Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of freedoms of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." ~James Madison

"Yes, we did produce a near perfect Republic. But will they keep it, or will they, in the enjoyment of plenty, lose the memory of freedom? Material abundance without character is the surest way to destruction." ~Thomas Jefferson

"The nobility of the soldier willing to give a life for country and God
lies silent and still amidst the broken promises of leaders.
Send them not to futile sacrifice on shores so far from home.
But keep your word to all that serve that none shall die in vain." ~ a poem by Rich Raitano, a bother Vietnam era medic

"A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil that good may come from it." ~Wm. Penn

"Never has so much military and economic and diplomatic power been used so ineffectively, and if after all this time, and all of this sacrifice, and of all this support, there is no end in sight, then I say for the American people to turn to new leadership not tied to the mistakes and policies of the past."   ~ Richard Nixon, 1968

A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt. If the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake." ~Thomas Jefferson, 1798

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." ~John_F._Kennedy

"Liberalism -- it is well to recall this today -- is the supreme form of generosity; it is the right which the majority concedes to minorities and hence it is the noblest cry that has ever resounded in this planet. It announces the determination to share existence with the enemy; more than that, with an enemy which is weak." ~Jose Ortega Y Gasset

How long will they kill our prophets while we stand aside and look? ~Bob Marley 

I have to admit Brian it was very refreshing to see you FINALLY do your job and ask the pResident the Tough questions...I watched that first interview and I was yelling at the set fir you to ask him the tough questions about Iraq! Thank you for doing your job...The Shrub looks stupid all by himself...Brian Williams keep doing your job!

Some people cannot get beyond their partisan points of view and see this interview for what it is: one of the best presedential interviews I have seen. It is not disrespectful of the President, nor is it a cakewalk.

First, the setting is perfect. It is rare that the President is available outside an official setting, but here the President is walking among the reconstruction. It is a humanizing setting, which show the President's "common man" touch. It is a place which he is clearly comfortable and candid.

Second, Brian William's style is perfect. Using the President's critics point of view to craft a question guided the President to address those concerns. It required the President speak to the issues that concern citizens, but, as Brian did not interrupt the President, or follow-up with any argumentative rebuttal, gave the President the platform to lay out his point of view.

Lastly, sprinkling questions about talking shop with the President's father, or his reading habits allowed the President to connect with the American public in a way that press conference, or speech does not.

Some folks talk about being fair and balanced, but this interview truly is. Congratulations on a job well done.

Thank you Brian for being a professional. Your interview with George W. Bush was not malicious it was honest. It was not disrespectful it was insightful. It was not arrogant it was responsible. Thank you Brian for being a journalist. Any damage that was done to Mr. Bush was done through his own inadequacies. Please keep up the good work because more than ever the United States needs a strong press to protect us and our rights.

I am increasingly impressed with your approach to reporting the news, and was proud to watch your interview with the President. You did a good service to our nation and, maybe, just maybe, to the president himself.

There has been what seems to be a concerted effort to defer in these posts and elsewhere the blame for the slow response to Katrina on local officials. I imagine it is because Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin ran for office as Democrats. But being a registered Democrat in Louisiana does not mean by any stretch of the imagination that an official is a progressive. Louisiana is a very "red" state.
First, readers of this blog should know that Mayor Nagin was a registered Republican until he ran for his first term as mayor. He was largely supported and elected by the white business community. This year he was re-elected largely due to support from out-of-state money designed to stop the candidacy of his opponent, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu (brother of Sen. Mary Landrieu). Don't think that the "chocolate city" and other prepared comments that surprised (and fed preconceived notions of) those outside of Louisiana were not made with the upcoming mayoral election clearly in focus. Mayor Nagin needed to rally the minority support for a second term.
And you should know that Gov. Blanco was not the traditional Democrat in the race for governor here. Gov. Blanco stands much closer to national Republican issue positions than to national Democratic ones.
Three of Louisiana's last six governors, going back to 1980, were Republican. Seven members of our current nine-member congressional delegation are Republicans. Understanding and commenting on Louisiana deserves a little thought, if not knowledge (not unlike the value of understanding Iraq's Sunni, Shiite and Kurd historical interaction).
Secondly, it occurs to me that blaming the local authorities is a bit like finding a person upon whom a building has collapsed and asking them why they haven't dug themselves out yet.
Most of New Orleans was evacuated, empty. 80% was under water. No communications including cell phones worked well across a third of Louisiana. Infrastructure was destroyed. No one was sleeping well. We had to have outside help and we needed it quickly, expertly.
New Orleans didn't get that. Lots of people bear responsibility, but it seems to me that Louisiana officials can claim a preoccupation with simply surviving the impact of the largest natural disaster in our nation's history.
And still it goes on. Those posting see Brian Williams interview the President in front of five or six newly-built homes (built, incidentally, by donated funds and non-profit agencies like Habitat for Humanity not with the much-touted $110 million which has curiously not found its way into the rebuilding a full year later) and wonder how Mr. Williams might have a certain "body language". Every other block around these few houses for hundreds of blocks remains still lifeless and pitiful.
I don't attack Pres. Bush here. The streets of New Orleans provide the evidence against his administration. His words, his "body language" give him away.
This week, he came to Louisiana and Mississippi on OUR one-year anniversary. HIS one-year anniversary is on September 5 when he finally arrived to see what local authorities were living.

I have never contributed to a blog before but your interview to President Bush was absolutely the best I've heard. And when I hear you had lots of negative response I had to write to say this: Superbly professional, penetrating as it should be, warm when appropriate,and finally an interview that asked the questions we all discuss behind the scenes and which the press has not had the gumption to ask. Exactly the right tone. Of course the Rush Limbaugh and fans wouldn't like it. But as one blog said, your job is not to please any one of us or any constituent, including me. It is to get as much truth and insight on the table as possible. This was finally a conversation devoid of the superficial. Even the question on the reading list was revealing and certainly the one about his father (I love you son...rather than you're doing the right thing). You have changed how evening anchors operate by not just sitting behind the desk. You are up there with Walter Cronchite. Keep it up.

Dear Brian,

Again, thank you for the courage to speak the truth about what you saw in NOLA. Thank you for interveiwing the President who didn't have a script to lie from. All of the nay-sayers about the whole Katrina debacle fail to realize this: those people, our Americans were suffering and wheather or not a plan was in place and was missed or whatever happened, the whole country failed all of the people of the Gulf region. Releif was not only slow for NOLA, it was slow for the entire region!! NOLA was just the worst and that is why so much reporting came from there because those people were the most vulnerable, but of course the haves dont understand that jsut like they dont understand poverty in America. NEW FLASH! it exists. Bush himself admitted to taking the blame because he is the President, the buck stops with him. Yes Bush should be criticized for flying over the devastation instead of being on the ground. And by the way, the reports of violence and unlawfullness in NO was untrue. RUMORS! and when did our government subject itself to being afraid of anyone? Esp in our own country. For the relief effort to have taken so long, 5 miserable inept days for everyone in NO is unacceptable and inhumane. NOLA is the mouth of the Mississipi and if you right winggers keep insisting that this president has America on the right path your are just doing a disservice to yourself and your family. You are keeping yourself in danger. Kudos to Brian Williams for representing what 61% of America believe. Have a blessed day.

Brian: It was unbelievable to see and hear how unprofessional and I think, disrespectful to President Bush in his interview. Sadly, NBC News is being added to my list of "Do Not Watch".

I appreciate the opp to read how others feel.. I for one respect our President, as I have both Democrats and Republicans before him. I cannot understand why the media allows the President and the Federal Govt. to take such a beating over the handling of the Katrina crisis? A crisis inflicted on our country, an act of nature like none other. If fingers are to be pointed, then why not point out the local governments for not evacuating their people? What about all the city and school buses, other modes of transportation that were NOT used to move the folks out of harms' way when they fully aware in advance ! ? Why is it the fault of the federal government and our President ?? And, as for President Bush's facial expressions, some of us cannot help how we look !!

I thought you did a fine job interviewing the President Brian. I am registered as a Republican, but I have yet to figure out why I must defend the President just because he is a Republican. He has done a bad job, and I just hope some good Republican replaces him. President Bush is definately no honest Abe Lincoln! If my party puts up another candidate just like Bush, then sadly I will probally not be voting for my parties nominee! As an honest person I will admit that I was wrong to vote for Bush, and even as a republican if I could go back and vote between Gore and Bush, I would pick Gore in an instant, or even John Kerry. I can just hope that the Republican party will cut there losses, and get themselves back on track so I can stand as a proud member of that party once more! Defending lies, and defending principles that are wrong makes us all look like liers, and having no morals.

It is amazing how bias you guys are!.. I wrote an intelligent comment yesterday which was not in favor of Brian Williams and I knew you would not post it. As far as I am concerened your credibility is shot. YOu guys post 80% positive and 20% negative yea that is real balanced and fair. AMAZING!!

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MSG, Mississippi:

Wow! Defensive and aggresive at the same time! I suggest that if you do not like the tone of this blog, then find one that you love and stay with it.

It's okay Brian. Some of us Americans like it when our political leaders are asked the tough questions. Especially when our President is being questioned. We as Americans have the right to know how & why our leaders make the decesions that effect our everyday lives.

You were great. He is the president, he needs to answer to us the citizens. To ask him questions is not disrespectful, it is necessary if we are to learn the truth. You just let him speak and be himself. Did we get an eyeful and an earful? Oh my goodness, did we ever. Thank you.

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