The chief Washington correspondent and anchor for MSNBC, Norah O'Donnell is also an Emmy-winning correspondent for NBC. With a résumé like that, her writing a book was inevitable. So she decided to tackle the issue of ... healthy baby food. This week, O'Donnell's new book (co-written with her husband, chef and restaurateur Geoff Tracy), Baby Love: Healthy, Easy, Delicious Meals for Your Baby and Toddler, hits bookstores. How did the superstar reporter settle on such a homey topic? TIME senior reporter Andrea Sachs spoke with O'Donnell about her new book and the lay of the political land.
I think a lot of your viewers would be astonished to know that you have three kids, all under the age of 3. How do you manage everything?
You know, it's very difficult. It's a challenge every day. My twins are 3, and my baby's 2. But it's a blessing to have my children, and we make it work. All working moms have challenges, and we handle them in different ways, but I'm frequently asked, How do you do it all? Or, How do you balance it all? I'm thinking this might be my next book.
Why did you and your husband decide to write this book?
It was a no-brainer. We wanted to make sure that we started our children off on the right foot, in terms of feeding them healthy food and building a cornerstone for a lifetime of healthy eating. It certainly helped that my husband was a chef. I'm no expert in the kitchen, I admit it. But when I saw how easy it was to make so many of these recipes and how quick they were, I was like, "Oh my gosh, we've got to write a book about this!" Because I understand. I'm a busy, working mom. By sharing some of our knowledge, my hope is that this will be helpful to millions of busy working parents. Our goal is to spark a baby-food revolution.
To me, the question of how to balance work and family always suggests the scales of justice that work and family are getting equal amounts. And that's just not the case. I spend more time at work than I do with my children. That's a simple fact. But the time I do spend with them, I try and make sure it's quality, and I try and provide them with the very best and that includes what they eat.
You shared an Emmy for NBC's coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign. What are you doing to gear up for this November?
Gearing up for what is going to be another fascinating midterm election where control of the House and the Senate is on the line, where members of Congress are facing record-low approval ratings. I'll be out on the road, covering some of the key House and Senate contests up until election night. I've been doing a lot more of the analysis, too, on Morning Joe.
Are incumbents' fears as great as the media is reporting? Are people really scared right now?
I think there are a lot of members of Congress who are shaking in their boots. They will face some very angry voters at the ballot box in November. And there will be a lot of members of Congress who lose their seats.
How is the "Ground Zero mosque" issue playing out in Washington?
This is a real hot-button issue. Members of both parties are looking for any opportunity to find an issue that they can campaign against their opponents on. And so the Republicans think that President Obama has made a grievous mistake in backing the rights of Muslims to open a community center and mosque. The President believes this is an issue, that there is a fundamental right in this country, protected by the Constitution, to respect different religions. It really says a lot about our country and how we feel after 9/11. But my sense is that while they certainly they have the right to build this mosque and community center near Ground Zero, I think people legitimately question the sensitivity of it.
Tim Russert's death must have come as a terrible shock to you at NBC.
It was, and I think about him so often. He died just two weeks before my third child, Riley, was born. And I had started an early maternity leave, so I was out of the office that day. David Gregory was the one to tell me that Tim had died, and of course I ended up going back to the office and anchoring some of our coverage.
Tim was the one who knew, [after] I had just had the twins, [that] four months later I was pregnant again. I was really very embarrassed about going into work and telling them. So I was five months pregnant, and my husband said, "You need to tell Tim that you're pregnant." So I finally got up the courage to tell Tim. And of course he was so wonderful and fabulous. He loved children. I mean, anytime my twins would come in, he would literally spend, like, an hour with them, playing with them as they were babies. So he was excited. And he said to me, "If I'd ever had a girl, I would have named her Riley." And so that day I went home and told Geoff that, and I asked, "Is that a good name?" Geoff said, "Yes, that's a good name." Tim died two weeks before Riley was born, so I never got to tell him that we did name her Riley.
One day when I was pregnant, Tim dropped by my office [with something]. It was the funniest thing he did it was a picture of Wonder Woman, and he had put my head on her body. He was so great in really supporting all the journalists that worked for him. It still gives me a great deal of confidence when I think about him and the way he inspired a lot of us.