By Tom Gliatto Mark Dagostino
July 14, 2008 12:00 PM

Filling in as moderator of NBC’s political chat-fest through the November elections, the former anchor, 68, pays homage to his friend Tim Russert, who died of a heart attack June 13.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT TAKING TIM’S SEAT? I like to think Tim would say this was the right call at the right time. I’ve been appearing on Meet the Press since 1973. It feels like family. I hope I can be successful at it and keep the bar as high as he did.

WOULD YOU CONSIDER STAYING FULL-TIME? No. As Tim would say, “Meet the Press is a national treasure, and I’m only the temporary custodian.” I have a new life. I’ve done nine documentaries in the last three years; I’ve written Boom! [his history of the 1960s]; I also had to cancel a fly-fishing trip to Russia to do this.

ANY THOUGHTS ON WHO SHOULD TAKE OVER THEN? Besides Chris Rock? No, I have some thoughts, but I’m not sharing them publicly.

TIM WAS EXCITED ABOUT THIS ELECTION. ARE YOU? Oh yeah! For me it’s reminiscent of 1968. This country’s at war, we have an energy crisis, a housing meltdown. And we have an African-American who, as far as the polls say, is the leading candidate for President. This is historic.