07/02/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A Big Slip of Chris Matthews' Quick Tongue

His first panel consisted of the regulars -- Andrea Mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News, and Chuck Todd, political director for NBC News .

After Tim Russert's death, much was made of the fact that Chuck Todd had been Russert's pick, his boy, and maybe the young man would at some point long down the road have been Russert's choice to succeed him.

(One can imagine that Russert also was looking to his son, Luke, to have a starring role. After all, Luke, who, as the world now knows, just graduated from Boston College, already had his own sports radio show with Meet the Press regular James Carville.)

As I watched Matthews, Mitchell, and Todd dissect the slip-up du jour -- McCain aide Charlie Black's comments to a reporter from Fortune that a terrorist attack in the United States before election day would be "a big advantage" to McCain -- I have the weird sense that I'm watching a tryout; that these colleagues and presumably friends, are being evaluated by the network honchos as candidates for the same job; Russert's.

I sensed that they all knew it. Mitchell was dressed even more elegantly than usual, and stumbled over her words more than usual. Todd, the best, coolest analyzer of politics, seemed a bit off his game. And Chris Matthews audibly groaned when he slipped, meaning to say that a tape coming out of the Osama headquarters just before the election in 2004 had hurt Kerry and helped Bush -- but saying, instead, "Obama."

From the look on his open, expressive face, Matthews seemed to realize that calling Obama by the name of Osama -- during a show in which one segment was titled "Obama's religion problems." -- was a serious mistake.