Marvin Kalb (Courtesy of the Brookings Institution Press) Scenes from the life of a veteran newsman
Editor’s Note: Below is an expanded version of a piece published in the June 14, 2021, issue of National Review.
The voice and face are perfectly familiar, to someone who grew up with them. I am talking with Marvin Kalb, via Zoom. For 30 years, he was a reporter and analyst for CBS News and NBC News. In the mid 1980s, he was host of Meet the Press. Since 1994, he has hosted The Kalb Report, from the National Press Club.
He has also authored or co-authored many books — 17, in fact — including two novels. His very first book, published in 1958, was about his experiences in the Soviet Union. So is his new one: Assignment Russia: Becoming a Foreign Correspondent in the Crucible of the Cold War.
Though Kalb has reported from many parts of the world, Russia has been an abiding interest. It started in World War II, when he was a boy. He had a map in his room, and he moved pins around, to note where the armies were. When he came of age, the Cold War was heating up.
Marvin Kalb was born in 1930, in the Bronx, New York City. Later, the family lived in Washington Heights (Manhattan). Marvin’s mother, Bella, had emigrated from Kiev in 1913; his father, Max, had emigrated from Zyrardov, a textile town in Poland, in 1914. He would have been conscripted into the czar’s army for World War I. Max was part of the Galveston Movement, or Galveston Plan, whereby Jewish refugees landed at that Texas port, to be dispersed throughout the country.
Max’s parents — Marvin’s paternal grandparents — were killed in the Holocaust.
Max and Bella Kalb’s first child was Estelle. Then came two boys, Bernard and Marvin, eight years apart. Both would make their names in journalism, primarily as foreign correspondents. They are very, very close. Marvin says that the Depression forged them. When you’re poor — when you have
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