In light of the tragic events that just transpired in Egypt and Libya on Sept. 11, both presidential candidates felt obligated to host separate press conferences that aired just 30 minutes apart. In yet another example of the ‘journalistic integrity’ that saturates the MSNBC network, the Jansing and Co. hostess and guests openly showed favoritism to President Obama, who was glaringly devoid of any time for questions from the media.
Anchor Chris Jansing engaged in a conversation with NBC’s Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd that continued off and on throughout the allotted hour. Republican challenger Romney was taken to task for sharing his opinion on the matter without the benefit of “any foreign policy experience,” or as they described it as “launching a political attack” after the murder of an ambassador.
That it’s entirely possible there were dangerously incompetent policies in place regarding diplomatic security in both Cairo and Benghazi were not even considered.
Todd was given an inordinate amount of time to critique both of the prepared statements, and he made the most of it. Despite offering his deepest condolences in the very beginning, Romney’s press conference was called “a bit testy” and a “risky move” by Todd. He then referred to Obama as the “consoler-in-chief”:
I was surprised that Governor Romney went ahead and delved into the political debate as deeply as he did, given the picture we are about to see, which is the president in the Rose Garden as commander-in-chief and ‘consoler-in-chief’ of what just happened. Politically frankly, it's a little bit of a risky move I think on Mitt Romney's part.
Through her line of questioning, Jansing also proved to be highly partisan and overly critical of Romney's statements. “We heard that again in this statement from him. He had harsh things to say about the president, but nothing to say about how he would do things differently.”
While the GOP's candidate was willing to elaborate on what he said by welcoming all questions from his traveling press corps, Obama completely avoided his own. Something that has become fairly common in the last few months, as ABC’s own White House Correspondent Jake Tapper pointed out not that long ago. Jansing and Todd failed to recognize this however, sticking to their preferred anti-Romney narrative.
Relevant transcript below (emphases mine):
Jansing & Co.
10:08 a.m. EDT
CHRIS JANSING: Let's go to our White House correspondent, Chuck Todd. And Chuck, what are we expecting to hear from the president?
CHUCK TODD: I think we are going to hear similar words, frankly. But it was pretty important that you did hear from Secretary Clinton first, and let me explain why. These were Foreign Service officers, these were diplomats. And when you think about Ambassador Stevens you know, there are two types of ambassadors around the world for the United States. There are friends and donors in the safe countries in the safe allies, and then there are people like Chris Stevens who were career foreign service officer guys who work under any administration, Democrat or Republican. And this was almost an attempt by Secretary Clinton as a morale boost if you will to these other Foreign Service officers, career diplomats that are working in countries with large Muslim populations. We could see -- and there's a heightened alert right now, where we could see more protests take place, and there's a concern for safety of those individuals. I think that’s why you can't describe sort of the State Department family there, and that importance of Secretary Clinton speaking directly to the career diplomats and Foreign Service folks that - they put their lives on the line and don't have weapons to fight back with. And it's just a stark reminder of how tough some of the jobs are for these career diplomats.
JANSING: Let me bring back Chuck Todd. And Chuck, for people just joining us I want to set up the political implications of this and what happened overnight. First there was a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Egypt, which did condemn the attacks, and essentially condemned the filmmaker for hurting the religious feelings of Muslims. And that led to a statement from Mitt Romney's campaign. I want to read it, a part of it. ‘It's disgraceful the Obama Administration's first response was not to condemn the attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attack’. Then the Obama camp responded that it was shocked Romney would choose to launch a political before the dead were identified. Now, we just got this statement, Chuck, from the Romney camp. A top Romney campaign official tells NBC News it is standing by its statement from last night that criticized the Obama administration. Help us to put this back and forth in the proper political context.
TODD: Well look, this is part of a larger argument that Mitt Romney is trying to make. He believes that President Obama and the Obama administration has not been tough enough with the sort of marginal allies of the United States, in particular. He has been critical on how Libya was handled, been critical on how the Syria situation has been handled. So it does fit in with a larger message push that Romney’s been doing. When you consider the moment in time when he did the release, we didn't know all the facts on the ground, the White House, by the way, on that statement, they don't stand behind the statement of the embassy in Cairo, either. A White House official was careful to tell me that they never approved that statement, and they were sympathetic as to why the embassy put out that statement. There was a hope that it would quell the violence in the moment and be enough to get the protesters to back off the embassy. They were sort of thinking in the moment there. That said the White House has been careful to distance itself from that statement, too. But it was -- it was a little jarring to realize that the Romney campaign jumped on it and then overnight you see the developments and the statement itself does not look smart this morning. You are hearing from some other Republicans. I had a former Senator Sununu saying and others saying that it was a mistake --
JANSING: Chuck, here comes Mitt Romney. Excuse me. Let's listen.
JANSING: Let me go back to Chuck Todd. And Chuck, I was just handed a statement that U.S. Officials tell NBC News the Marines are preparing to send as many as 200 marines to Libya to bolster security around the U.S. Embassy. Obviously, we cannot ignore neither the security issues at play here, nor the political implications. One of the things that we’ve talked about from the very beginning of this campaign with analysts is that it would likely turn on the economy. But there was always a possibility that some world event would happen that would suddenly roil up. Is foreign policy coming to the fore now here?
TODD: Well look, it obviously is for a few days. Let's remember, you know, the Arab Spring is you know-- we don't know how this is going to end. And that was something that you heard from Governor Romney. Its part of the debate he wants to have with President Obama which is specifically the handling of the Arab Spring. The question is what would Mitt Romney have done differently and would he not have helped ease Mubarak out of power, and there is second guessing on that specific issue for instance. I think you’re definitely going to see it for a few days, and I have to say just think about the picture we are seeing right now. Governor Romney having that press conference, sort of a -- we are getting a preview, a split screen preview, because we will hear from the president in a few minutes on this attack and his statement on this. A little bit of a split screen preview of what a foreign policy debate is going to look like between these two. I was surprised that Governor Romney went ahead and delved into the political debate as deeply as he did, given the picture we are about to see, which is the president in the Rose Garden as commander in chief and consoler and chief of what just happened. Politically frankly, it's a little bit of a risky move I think on Mitt Romney's part.
JANSING: And again, we want to remind people as we look at the split screen of Chuck and the White House that we will hear from the president very shortly. We already heard from Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Let me play you a little bit of that.
JANSING: I think it's important for us that we put it in the broader context and we are waiting for the president to come out and talk about the interrelated problem with Israel right now. President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu did speak for an hour last night. Let’s go back to Chuck Todd, give us the background on that phone call.
TODD: Well, this came after there was this back and forth triggered by reports out of the Israelis and Israeli government that when Netanyahu, of course, we have the U.N. General Assembly that opens in a couple weeks as it does annually. And the Israeli government was wondering where its invitation was to have a one-on-one meeting with President Obama. The fact that they were surprised they hadn’t gotten one, and the question was did they ask for one and all of this stuff? Well, the White House was trying to say they were not even going to be in New York on the same day, because of Yom Kippur when Netanyahu would be there versus when the president would be there to go back on the campaign trail, all of this. Then there was a phone call last night, and they spoke for an hour, talking about all of their issues that have concern of the moment. Of course Iran being first and foremost and we know that Benjamin Netanyahu was very critical of Secretary Clinton for saying what she said about who decides who draws red lines on when to attack Iran militarily. Well, after the White House put out a readout of the phone call saying, hey, by the way, on the dust up of this meeting, there was no official request for the meeting by the Israeli government, so there was no denial. The Israelis still believe they should have gotten an invite, and while they did not officially ask for one, they are surprised that they did not get one. But it's worth noting that Netanyahu was getting criticism by an opposition leader at home. One of his political foes said hey why are you inserting yourself in the American presidential election like this? So you know it's a dicey local political situation, both for the president, hint Florida and Netanyahu back at home as well.
JANSING: Chuck Todd, let me bring you back in. I think it's worth remembering in both the president and Hillary Clinton talked about the fact that there are many places in the world that are difficult and dangerous postings. But this is an extreme rarity, and it's been since 1979 in Afghanistan since a U.S. Ambassador was killed abroad.
TODD: Remember in Afghanistan, that’s basically the war between the Soviet Union and the Mujahidin in Afghanistan. I think a couple things stood out on the president's remarks, but it was toward the end that jumped out at me that said justice will be done. The question is what does justice look like? What is it that – you know he made it very clear the United States still stands with the Libyan government. I think it’s interesting that he didn’t address the situation in Cairo, didn’t address the other situations as much. I’ll be honest, I think his statement on Libya opens up more questions than what does it mean with the relationship with Egypt given that we have not heard from the Egyptian government on what happened there. And again define justice will be done. Is it something we will rely on the Libyan government to do in a test of their fledgling democracy?
JANSING: I should say there are many statements coming out now from senate leadership, one from Senators McCain and Lieberman. They say senior Libyan leaders have condemned these cowardly attacks and we now look to the Libyan government to insure that the perpetrators are swiftly brought to justice. That was one of the lingering questions you talked about.
TODD: It is, and that’s what is going to be a test of this Libyan government. And again, you know, they are just -- it's -- I think it was very interesting there. You had the president basically stand by the Libyan government and you’ve heard Secretary Clinton talk about what Libyan troops tried to help Ambassador Stevens and the troops that tried to resuscitate him for a couple of hours. There's clearly is an attempt of separating out these radicals that did this in Libya and the Libyan government itself. You take that and all of those statements, and the silence on what is going on in Egypt and Cairo, which of course centered around the political back and forth that we have seen with Mitt Romney, but also what does that mean for the U.S.-Egyptian relationship, given the silence on the Egyptian government?
JANSING: And Senator Kerry, one of the people releasing a statement, he of course gave an impassioned defense of President Obama at the convention, and at the end of his statement just a short time ago he said this is one of those moments when Americans must unite as Americans. It's exactly the wrong time to throw political punches. It's a time to restore calm and proceed wisely, but the political punches are flying fast and furious.
TODD: Yes, the Romney campaign is getting mixed advice. There are some saying he should be more aggressive against the president on the issue of foreign policy, that they believe that there is ground to be won here, if you will, politically, on for instance the management of the Arab Spring going forward, dealings with Israel, Iran and Syria. And there are others, and we’ve heard them go public a few hours ago saying, wait a minute, this is not the time. Have that debate, but did you pick the wrong time? Is this sort of when you did it, having this press conference that he had, which was a ‘fairly testy’ press conference with his traveling press corps, just a few minutes before the president gives a statement in the Rose Garden that doesn't have politics at the forefront.
JANSING: These are two lines of criticism we heard from the Republicans Chuck, one is leadership question and being tougher, and the other though is the recent push, in part I am sure brought on by the criticism from the Democrats that he has a lot of his own criticism but he’s very short on specifics. We heard that again in this statement from him. He had harsh things to say about the president, but nothing to say about how he would do things differently.
TODD: Look, I’ve asked him this very question in an interview, would you have helped pushed Mubarak out? He did not want to answer that question. And that's his challenge. It's the challenge of any challenger running against any incumbent, you want to back seat drive. But at the same time when you’re asked for clarity of what is your vision, what is it when it comes to the Arab Spring? How do you both promote Democracy and American values when democracy is part of the American values, but at the same time if you don't like what the people choose, if it's the Muslim Brotherhood that’s in charge of Egypt, then what do you do? And how do you -- how do you clarify that and correlate that with American values? Frankly, that's a challenge I think for both candidates. Again, I go to a question, Bobby Gauche from "Time" Magazine, the managing editor of the international edition. He said the debate question for foreign policy should be how do you win the Arab Street? The president when he was a candidate said he would give that first foreign speech and speak in a Muslim capital in the Muslim world. You could say, given to the harsh attacks, he hasn’t exactly won over the Arab Street. As far as Americans are concerned, Bush tried it. What’s Romney going to do differently that would win over the Arab Street?
JANSING: But what we were talking about earlier Chuck is that here you have an ambassador that went first to Libya to help the rebels. He was widely regarded very well by the rebels. He was admired by the rebels for the help he had given them, and because of the relationship in part that he developed is why Secretary of State Clinton asked him to become ambassador there earlier this year. And so of all people, it shows you the difficulty and the complications. One of the things Hillary Clinton said is we have to investigate the motivation and the methods and right now none of that is clear.
TODD: No, it's not. It goes to the fact that there are radicals in both Libya -- we now know what happened. Some were trying to incite violence and basically trying to cherry pick some obscure hateful internet video and somehow ascribe it to the feelings of the entire United States, and, you know, how do you deal with that? How does the government -- how does the Libyan government deal with that? How does the Egyptian government deal with this? It seems as if that president is more worried about his domestic politics rather than what these radicals have done to American citizens in Cairo.