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For Brian Williams, 38,486 Miles and Counting

Gail Shister
TVNewser Columnist

RNC Logo10.pngPregnant, shmegnant. Candidates’ kids are not fair game, says NBC’s Brian Williams.

“Show me the germaneness to their ability to lead the nation,” he said last night, a few hours before Sarah Palin‘s vice-presidential acceptance speech at the G.O.P. National Convention.

As everyone in the civilized world learned this week, Bristol Palin, 17-year-old daughter of the Alaska governor, is with child and without husband.

“Families are messy and complicated and American and normal,” said Williams, notoriously protective of his own. “It’s where public officials kind of close the door behind them. Home is home. Family’s family.”

With situations like Palin’s, “We’re feeling our way,” Williams admitted. “It becomes part of the biographical sketch. Sometimes it bleeds over into politics. I’m comfortable reporting what we know.”

For politicos, it’s an easier line to cross when it’s with those of their own ilk, Williams said.

Republican President Reagan and Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, for example, “could be tough customers” on the Hill, Williams said, but after hours, the “twinklely-eyed Irishmen” liked to tip a few. (We can see the headline: Tip Tips.)

“A switch gets thrown when the scene changes.”

In the last eight weeks, Williams has endured more scene changes than a “Law & Order” episode.

From the Olympics in Beijing to the Democratic convention in Denver to Hurricane Gustav coverage in New Orleans to the Republicans in St. Paul to L.A. tomorrow for a cancer awareness special with his Big 3 competitors.

By Williams’ calculation, it comes to 38,486 miles — including two Pacific crossings, two Atlantic crossings and 10 overseas cities.

In return for the jet lag, he gets to keep the frequent flier miles. (Also, he “selected the punch-bowl set as my annual gift from American Airlines.”)

The grueling pace “is taxing, but it’s our high season,” Williams explained. “We all understand that. It’s not always like this. Sometimes we go weeks at a time with perfectly, almost-routine schedules. Home for dinner, all of that.

“As I say to all the members of my family, quoting a line from that great movie ['The Godfather'], ‘This is the life we’ve chosen.’”

Maybe that’s why Williams wasn’t kvetching about a cupcake for dinner. Not just any cupcake, of course. Luscious dainties flown in from a Long Island bakery to celebrate his soundman’s birthday.

Unable to resist, Williams said the treats weren’t easy to get. “The TSA has cupcake restrictions in effect.”

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