At the top of Wednesday's MSNBC Daily Rundown, host Chuck Todd denounced Mitt Romney for daring to criticize the Obama administration's handling of the attack on U.S. embassies in Egypt and Libya: "[The Romney campaign] wish they had that press release back, because as the hours unfolded....this statement looks crass and tone deaf in the light of this day." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Todd was referring to the Romney campaign condemning a statement by the U.S. embassy in Cairo that essentially apologized to the Islamist protesters attacking the diplomatic grounds. Todd proclaimed: "Now here's what we don't get. Why the Romney campaign didn't wait until it had all the facts....Now they're actually in a political box, because what can they do? They know that they've made a mistake."
On Wednesday's NBC Today, Todd parroted White House talking points attacking Romney:
Well, the Obama campaign quickly fired back, saying it was, quote, 'shocked,' that following the deadly protests, quote, 'Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack'....officials here are just stunned that the Romney campaign wouldn't even wait til' daybreak before pouncing on this story, considering we didn't have confirmations of the death of the Ambassador and others.
During an NBC News special report, moments after President Obama made a statement on the attacks, chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell cited Todd as one of "many observers" who "have said that it was a misstep" for Romney to criticize Obama's response to the attacks.
Despite all the hand-wringing by Todd and Mitchell, in a press conference shortly before the President's remarks, Romney actually stepped up his criticism of Obama's handling of the crisis and foreign policy generally.
Here is full transcript of Todd's September 12 report on Today:
MATT LAUER: And the diplomatic crisis is also turning political this morning, with the White House and Mitt Romney's campaign trading dueling statements overnight. Chuck Todd is NBC's political director and chief White House correspondent. Chuck, good morning to you.
CHUCK TODD: Good morning, Matt. Well, believe it or not, yesterday began with a pause in the campaign to remember the 11th anniversary of 9/11, but it ended with some nasty political mud-slinging.
Hoping to contain the fallout from the anti-Muslim film, the American embassy in Cairo released a statement on Tuesday that some Republicans considered a partial defense of the violent protests. The embassy denounced the attack as an "unjustified breach," but, appearing to reference an anti-Muslim filmmaker here in the United States, it also condemned "the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims."
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Condemn vs. Sympathize; Romney Blasts Administration Response to Cairo Attacks]
Mitt Romney pounced. "It's disgraceful that the Obama administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks," the GOP presidential candidate said in a statement late Tuesday. Well, the Obama campaign quickly fired back, saying it was, quote, "shocked," that following the deadly protests, quote, "Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack." Even Sarah Palin joined the fray, paraphrasing a line often used to mock her...
TINA FEY [AS SARAH PALIN]: And can I see Russia from my house.
TODD: ...as a way to slam the White House. "Apparently President Obama can't see Egypt and Libya from his house," she tweeted.
A couple of things. That Cairo statement by the embassy there was never approved by the State Department or the White House. That said, I can tell you here, Matt, officials here are just stunned that the Romney campaign wouldn't even wait til' daybreak before pouncing on this story, considering we didn't have confirmations of the death of the Ambassador and others.
LAUER: Alright, Chuck, before I let you go, let's talk about another story where we're looking into, it's a diplomatic story. Depending on who you're listening to, it's either a major difference of opinion between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or a scheduling conflict. What can you tell me?
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Diplomatic Dust-Up; Did President Obama Refuse Meeting With Israeli Prime Minister?]
TODD: Well, it's a little bit of both. Look, the United Nations General Assembly, it comes into session. The opening session happens later this are month in New York. And with both the President and Netanyahu both going to be in New York, the assumption was, at least on the Israeli front, that they would get a sit-down with the President. There's obviously a lot going on with Iran, things like that. Well, apparently, according to the White House, there was a scheduling conflict. The Israelis thought they were being snubbed by not getting a one-on-one meeting. The White House says "Hey wait a minute, we're not even going to be in New York on the same day." They're both going to be there at different times, the President jumping right back on the campaign trail.
That said, what did the President do last night, Matt? He picked up the phone and they had – and he and Netanyahu had a one-hour conversation, and according to the White House version of the events, they agreed, hey, there was no invitation ever asked for by the Israelis, none extended, and therefore non-denied. But still, let's be realistic here. The President and Netanyahu have never had a great personal relationship. This is just one more piece of evidence.
LAUER: Alright. Chuck Todd at the White House this morning. Chuck, thank you very much.