Tom Brokaw Discusses Iraq, Network News, and the Upcoming Election During Romantic, Candlelit Interview With Howard Kurtz

03/28/2008 02:45 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Howard Kurtz broadcast a long interview with former "NBC Nightly News" anchor Tom Brokaw on today's "Reliable Sources," allotting the entire first half of the show to the newsman's thoughts on a wide range of subjects, including his new book, "Boom! Voices of the Sixties: Personal Reflections on the '60s and Today," for which he has recently been making the rounds. Brokaw had a lot to offer in the interview — the transcript of which is available here — clearly the result of Howie Kurtz's flickering-candle decor loosening Brokaw up, presumably after welcoming him to the strains of Barry White on the stereo and a little Courvoisier . At any rate, Brokaw had much to say but we found the below excerpt putting the recent progress in Iraq into context to be of interest:

Here's the full excerpt:

KURTZ: In recent months, though, casualties are down in Iraq. Some would say that the surge is having some modest success. Yet conservatives say that is not getting enough coverage. Is that because of Iraq fatigue? Is that because only bad news is news?

BROKAW: No, I think it is time to take a look at it again. You know, what, Howie? These are small signs of some progress four years later.

KURTZ: Sure.

BROKAW: And the Iraqi government still doesn't have it together. And after four years, if the Iraqis can't take care of themselves with all of the money that has been poured in there, all of the help that they have been given, that's a truer measurement, I think, of what is going on in Iraq.

It does not mean that we ought not to take notice of the fact that the attacks are down, that the insurgency has been hurt. I had a briefing the other day about what is going on with IEDs. After billions of dollars, we have finally found a way to be more effective at protecting our troops from them and detonating them early. But it has taken a long time. That won't solve the political issue about whether Iraq can handle its own destiny.

Other nuggets from Brokaw:

  • On not being a cokehead, though pot was cool: "There was this early benign attitude, certainly toward marijuana, and then even toward cocaine later on, which was not an area for me. I didn't go there. But you know, marijuana was being passed around at very establishment cocktails parties like an after-dinner drink of some kind." (Brokaw has admitted to inhaling, as the kids say, but has said it "didn't agree" with him.)

  • On the enduring/waning influence of network evening news: "It is not as dominant as it once was, but between them they deliver 20 million people a night...and sometimes more. There is no other establishment that does that. When people say to me, that Bill O'Reilly is popular, and I say, now what do you suppose his proportion of audience is compared to, say, Katie Couric, who is not doing well at CBS? It is a third....The trend lines are down, there is no question about it. We are living in a -- what I call the big bang, which is that we are creating a whole new universe. We are trying to figure out which planets are going to support life and which ones won't, which ones will drift too close to the sun and burn out."

  • On BriWi on SNL: "I think the rules have changed a lot now, I think people are much -- moved much more easily across those lines...Brian has got a very good barometer about what is going too far and what is not. And he was very funny. And he liked doing it. My -- the problem for me that night was switching between the Boston College football game and 'Saturday Night Live.'"

  • On the return of Don Imus, when Kurtz mentioned how Brokaw called him after the Rutgers comment and his subsequent removal from CBS and MSNBC, and said that the hoped it would "lead to an elevated racial dialogue in the country": "He said, "Call me at the ranch when that happens," because he didn't expect it to happen, and he was right. It hasn't happened. And it's one of the things that I have addressed directly in the book. I think that we do need to have a dialogue in this country.

  • We don't have language for dealing with race. Everybody hides behind political correctness or a certain mythology. No one wants to offend, no one wants to get at the facts of it. You are in danger of being a racist if you go against the merits of some issues and just try to look at it objectively.

    That goes on across the racial spectrum, by the way. Within the black culture there is a fear about speaking out, about what some people see as wrong, because they say, don't go there, you know, it will only hurt our people. So I do -- we used to talk about race with a lot more candor than we do now."