Political reporters of any age may feel like calling it a day after this election. The 2008 political season—which started way back in early 2007—has been one of the longest and lately most bruising in memory.
Fox News’ Brit Hume, who has been covering politics for 35 years, actually will retire after the election. And he’s having no second thoughts.
“The absolutely indispensable ingredient in being any good in this business is enthusiasm,” says Hume, who is 65. “You look at a guy like Mike Wallace, who worked up into his 80s and never lost his enthusiasm. I’ve started to lose mine. This stuff exhausts me as much as it excites me, and I’m just kind of tired of doing it.”
Precisely when Hume goes has yet to be determined. Following his retirement, Hume will be conferred emeritus status at the network, anchoring special events and occasionally filling in for Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace.
Roger Ailes, chairman of Fox News, has yet to decide whether he’ll keep Hume’s nightly news show Special Report, and if so, who might anchor. Chief White House correspondent Bret Baier has been mentioned.
At a lunch in Hume’s honor at New York’s 21 on Wednesday, Ailes called Hume a “pillar of Fox News,” adding, “He probably knows more about politics and more about journalism than any man alive.”
Hume took the podium and demonstrated his self-effacing fallibility.
“While I have covered politics for many years, I suppose we have to look hard to find anybody who has been wrong about this election campaign more times than I have,” said Hume. “To cite one particularly conspicuous example…I was asked just before the two conventions who I thought would be chosen by each nominee to be their vice presidential running mate. I said that I thought that the least interesting question of the year was who John McCain would choose as his running mate. And that no matter whom he chose it wouldn’t make a particle of difference.”
The room erupted in laughter. (To read what Hume had to say about John McCain's chances of defeating Barack Obama—and his appraisal of Sarah Palin's media performance—click here.)
Hume possesses the old-school gravitas of the anchors of his generation, including Tom Brokaw and the late Peter Jennings, a colleague of Hume’s during his 23 years at ABC News. But he has been able to indulge his wry humor in the more unrestrained atmosphere of Fox News.
To listen to Hume holding forth with reporters, his empty dessert plate in front of him, one would think he might miss the adrenaline of being in political media maelstrom. But the loss of enthusiasm for the business has been a “cumulative process.”
And the pull to walk a personal path—often forsaken in the drive for career success—has become more intense.
“I didn’t used to have grandchildren. Now I do. And I’m crazy about them. I want to be able to spend more time with them,” he said.
His wife, Kim Hume, retired two years ago as Fox News’ Washington bureau chief. And, he said, she “is leading the greatest life I’ve ever seen.”
“I also want to try to pursue my spiritual life,” he added. Hume and his wife reconnected with their Christian faith after the death of their son, Sandy, ten years ago. “We are so steeped in this business in the secular world, and the spiritual world gets really neglected.”
In the end, Hume said, it’s better to retire when you still have something to say.
“I think the worst thing you can do is …be kind of hanging on when you’ve lost your fastball and you’re not any good anymore,” said Hume. “Think of [Cleveland Browns running back] Jim Brown. He retired at the top of his game and then he had a wonderful career after that throwing women off of hotel balconies.”
“I’m kidding,” he added.