On Friday's NBC Today, special correspondent Tom Brokaw demonstrated the blatant media effort to ignore Obama administration failures surrounding the consulate attack in Libya: "Romney turned out to give the President air cover. There are serious questions about what happened in Libya and the absence of security and what is our Middle East policy, but Romney's missteps really have given the President more camouflage than he would have expected." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Brokaw lamely attempting to blame Mitt Romney for the failure of the media to ask tough national security questions of Obama echoed a recent revealing statement by CBS News political director John Dickerson, who declared that it was solely Romney's responsibility to hold the President to account over Libya because the media would not.
Brokaw made the observation during a panel discussion on the state of the presidential race, after co-host Savannah Guthrie wondered: "Romney has an ad out where he looks straight to the cameras, kind of that gauzy, 'I'm talking to you, I care about everybody.' Tom, how much damage does he have to repair from the 47% remark?"
Brokaw responded: "What is so striking to me is the number of conservative commentators who are lining up against him [Romney]." Brokaw's evidence of conservatives supposedly "lining up against" Romney was commentators like Charles Krauthammer offering constructive campaign advice.
Moments later, fill-in co-host Willie Geist asked: "On this question of empathy though, isn't it too late for Mitt Romney to change the way people view him?...can he change the way people look at him?" Brokaw again marveled at Obama's good fortune: "I think the President's very lucky to have the unemployment numbers come out next week, after that first debate, rather than this week, before the debate, because that would give him [Romney] an opening."
Perhaps another opening for Romney in the debate could be the anemic GDP number released on Thursday that NBC chose to completely ignore.
Here is a full transcript of the September 28 panel discussion:
7:01AM ET TEASE:
WILLIE GEIST: Also, a look ahead to next week's first presidential debate. Will it be make-or- break for Mitt Romney? We've got our political dream team of Brokaw, Gregory and Todd all here to weigh in this morning.
7:12AM ET SEGMENT:
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: For more on this week's events on the campaign trail, a look ahead to next week's first debate, NBC special correspondent Tom Brokaw is here, David Gregory, moderator of Meet the Press, and Chuck Todd, NBC's political director, chief White House correspondent. Guys, with so many titles, we're out of time. Let's talk first about the President's closing argument, a two-minute ad he puts out so early in the campaign, is this a sign of confidence, attempt to intimidate, or recognition that early voting has begun? Chuck, we'll start with you.
CHUCK TODD: Their strategy is early voting, and in fact when you look – we did some of our own polling, obviously we've been doing it over the last couple of weeks, and among people that say they're going to vote before election day, the President wins 2-1. That's their organization – organizing principle, so that's why they're doing this, so it is about – all about early voting. Half of the battleground states, 50% or more of the voters will vote early, Florida, Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina.
GEIST: David, is there a risk at all, though, that the Obama campaign gets ahead of itself here? We know some of the polls this week have shown widening margins in Ohio, a little bit in Florida, too, but it is still tight in many swing states, five and a half weeks til' election day, and we have a debate coming up in just five days.
DAVID GREGORY: Right. I think they fully recognize all the pitfalls here of getting cocky and thinking this race is over. I think a closing argument is, in part, to fill a vacuum, to say that he's got detail and Mitt Romney doesn't, and he really wants to compare and contrast, really make this a choice, not a referendum on his time in office. He also understands that incumbents are most likely to stumble going into these debates. So I think, you know, this is a relentless campaign on the President's side and they recognize all the pitfalls.
GUTHRIE: Let's talk about Romney's soft sell. The President's out with an ad, Romney has an ad out where he looks straight to the cameras, kind of that gauzy, "I'm talking to you, I care about everybody." Tom, how much damage does he have to repair from the 47% remark?
TOM BROKAW: Well, what is so striking to me is the number of conservative commentators who are lining up against him. Just today, Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post is talking about he needs to go big, he needs to be more defined in his policies, especially about the Middle East. Romney turned out to give the President air cover. There are serious questions about what happened in Libya and the absence of security and what is our Middle East policy, but Romney's missteps really have given the President more camouflage than he would have expected. We'll learn a lot more next week when we have the rumble in the Rocky Mountains. That debate will be very important.
TODD: Can I just tell you though, that column, a conservative column asking for more details, more something, has been written every week by somebody about Mitt Romney for the last six months. There's your problem.
GREGORY: It also says that there's a leadership vacuum, ultimately. The Republicans I talked to say this is no longer about keeping score on policy, this is not about ideology. This is about can you see this person being president for either another four years or for the first time? That's what they're facing.
GEIST: But Tom, on this question of empathy though, isn't it too late for Mitt Romney to change the way people view him? He began his campaign on June 2nd, 2011. The country knows who he is for the most part. So by sending Ann Romney out, by talking about his health care plan in Massachusetts and how that covered more people that not, can he change the way people look at him?
BROKAW: Well, I don't know. I think it really depends on the debate and really what happens in the debate will depend on how President Obama performs against him and how he comes after him. I think the President's very lucky to have the unemployment numbers come out next week, after that first debate, rather than this week, before the debate, because that would give him an opening. We've seen these debates take unusual turns in the past. President Bush – President Ford liberated Poland when he was debating, you'll remember. And Jimmy Carter said he talked about nuclear policy with Amy and Ronald Reagan looked and said, "There you go again," and it changed it for Ronald Reagan.
GUTHRIE: Well, let's talk about that fight night. A lot of commentators now think that because of where Romney is, it's a make-or-break moment for him. I love to hear all the commentators fall over themselves to compliment each other for once on the campaign trail. You had Mitt Romney saying, "The President is obviously a very eloquent gifted speaker." David Axelrod says, "I think the invasion of Normandy took less preparation than Romney is putting into these debates." Okay, let's get real for a moment, who's the better debater, really?
TODD: I think they're both mediocre debaters, I'll be honest. Barack Obama didn't win any of those primary debates in 2008, Joe Biden won them. You know the best actual debate that, you know, Harvard and Yale debate coaches will enjoy, will be Paul Ryan and Joe Biden, they'll be better at it. I think both – Romney's good in a group setting, he hasn't done a lot of one-on-ones. But the President – you know, John McCain wasn't exactly the best debater either – he doesn't blow anybody away.
GREGORY: You know I talked to Nate Silver from the New York Times, who's looked at all the polls and how much ground Mitt Romney has to gain, it could be as much as seven points, that's a lot to gain in some of these key battleground states just through a debate performance. Especially when two guys can be very well prepared, one sitting president, I don't know-
TODD: Kerry did it though, against Bush.
GREGORY: He did, I don't know that he made up all that ground, but he certainly scored a lot of points.
GEIST: Tom, if it's not the debate, what is it for Mitt Romney here in the last five and a half weeks of this campaign to change it?
BROKAW: Well, I think he does have to go big. I think he has to have a couple of really big ideas that connect with the American people and where they are. The economy is slowly getting better. There are real doubts about the Medicare plan that Paul Ryan has put in place that is beginning to hurt them in the battleground states. I don't think there's one thing that can turn it around for him, except the UFO theory which I keep coming back to. And we just had it again in the last two weeks, with the terrorist attack on our Libyan embassy. Things like that can change these elections very quickly. You'll remember when John Kerry was running against George Bush, on the Friday before the election, Osama Bin Laden came out with a screed against America and people thought, "I'm going to stay with who I know running our national security."
GUTHRIE: Yeah, you never know, there's always the unpredictable. Tom Brokaw, David Gregory, Chuck Todd, henceforth known as the dream team. Thank you so much, good to talk to you all.
GEIST: Thanks, guys.