CBS News' Schieffer Surprised to See Retirement Become News

AP Story Sets Off Flurry of Follow-Up Reports on Network’s Chief Washington Correspondent

No one was more surprised than Bob Schieffer that his long-discussed retirement became part of the news cycle this week after an AP story set off a flurry of follow-up reports.

CBS News' chief Washington correspondent plans to retire after a new president is sworn in next January. “This has always been my plan for the last year or so,” Schieffer said.

So when an AP reporter asked him this week if the 2008 presidential election would be his last, he said, “Well, yes,” at which point the reporter’s news radar peaked.

The reporter, Schieffer explained, said, “’Oh! Do you mind if I write that?’ I said, ‘Well no, it’s sort of out there.’”

Schieffer, who turns 71 Feb. 25, has been with CBS News since 1969. A veteran of the White House and Pentagon beats, he covered his first campaign in 1968 (for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram).

The 2008 campaign, he said, “has shaped up to be the most exciting campaign that I can remember back to 1988 for sure and one of the most exciting since I’ve been covering national campaigns.”

Schieffer will team up with CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric and political correspondent Jeff Greenfield for the network’s Super Tuesday coverage, which was expanded from one hour to two. The special begins at 9 p.m. (EST) and will include live updates for the West Coast.

“This is just a really big story and I’m really proud of CBS for deciding to expand our coverage,” Schieffer said. “I mean, we really needed to do that. I think this lets people know we’re really serious about this. A cheer went up when we found out that it was going to be two hours instead of one.”

As it turns out, the 2008 campaign may not be Schieffer’s last election cycle -- just his last in his current position.

“I’m always going to have some association with CBS,” he said. “I’m not going to go to work anyplace else. I mean, [NBC’s] Tom Brokaw is kind of my hero. He bowed out, and then he still shows up from time to time when important stories are going on, and I think CBS will treat me in that same way. But I just want to make my exit while things are going good. I don’t want to stand around here until somebody says, ‘Get the hook for the old guy.’”