Even Barack Obama’s fan club on NBC’s Today were stunned at the President’s winning of the Nobel Peace Prize. Co-host Matt Lauer found it baffling: “We’re less than a year into the first term of this president and there are no -- I'm not trying to be, you know, rude here -- no major foreign policy achievements, to date.”
Meet the Press moderator David Gregory felt the need to point out the “left-leaning” impulse of the Europeans who christened Obama as the world’s leading peacemaker for 2009: “This is a lot more about tone than it is substantive accomplishment. In many ways, this is a European body who is more left-leaning, certainly, and opposed to the administration of George W. Bush.”
Lauer followed up: “So, what you're saying in some ways and, again, not to be rude here or sarcastic, that in some ways he wins this award for not being George W. Bush?”
Gregory agreed: “I think that that is an inescapable conclusion about all of this.”
Lauer and Gregory were also fixated on what conservatives would say about the Nobel committee’s choice. Lauer insisted: “It's no secret that conservatives have opposed some of his foreign policy initiatives, reaching out to Iran, allowing former President Clinton to go to North Korea on that mission to free those U.S. journalists. Even that early speech in Egypt to the Arab world -- a lot of critics, conservatives, called it the ‘Obama apology tour.’ So how are they gonna deal with this?”
“I think his conservative critics will say, you know, a lot of sizzle here, but not a lot of accomplishment,” Gregory predicted, just moments after he and Lauer had agreed that Obama lacked any “accomplishment” that would merit the award.
In their barely seven minutes of coverage on Today, NBC also repeated three times the White House talking point that Obama was “humbled” by the award. Lauer at the top of the show relayed: “The President, according to administration officials, is apparently humbled by the announcement....” Co-host Meredith Vieira soon reinforced: “And as Matt reported, the President apparently very humbled by receiving that prize....” And Gregory finished his analysis by insisting that “as honored and humbled as I'm sure the President is by this award, he would much rather have unemployment rate go down from 9.8%.”
Here’s a transcript of the Nobel Prize coverage from the October 9 Today, starting with the opening teases at 7am ET:
MATT LAUER: Good morning. Breaking news -- a stunning announcement this morning: President Barack Obama wins this year's Nobel Peace Prize. [Clip of announcement in foreign language, with audible gasps] We'll get reaction in a live report from the White House....
MEREDITH VIEIRA: Reporters who cover the Nobel Peace Prize announcement normally don't gasp in surprise, but they did this morning when President Obama's name was announced.
LAUER: That's right. The President, according to administration officials, is apparently humbled by the announcement. And why not -- it's a rare feat; the only three other Presidents to win, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter, and by the way Carter's win came more than two decades after he left the Oval Office. We're going to have much more on why the panel may have selected President Obama coming up in just a couple of minutes....
VIEIRA: But we're going to begin with that breaking news out of Oslo, Norway; President Barack Obama awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Chuck Todd is NBC's chief White House correspondent. Chuck, good morning and, suffice it to say, this was a big surprise.
CHUCK TODD: It was, Meredith. Even the White House, I think the first reaction of Robert Gibbs was 'Wow,' the press secretary. They were surprised. They found out at about 5:10 this morning, basically the same way we all found out, via a wire report that they received out of the Situation Room that was monitoring all of these things.
He becomes the third president to do this, and when you read the citation, it's clearly a decision by the Nobel committee to endorse the President's foreign policy. They talk about dialogue, the fact that he focuses on nuclear non-proliferation, and calls him the world's -- he is now the world's leading spokesman when it comes to these issues, and so it really is an endorsement of what they think he might be able to do, rather than an award for anything that he has done.
We don't know who nominated him, all of those details, we assume we'll learn later. We don't know if the President will go and pick up the prize himself in Oslo, in December, and of course what he would do with the prize money that comes with it, Meredith.
VIEIRA: Alright, Chuck. And as Matt reported, the President apparently very humbled by receiving that prize. Chuck Todd, thank you very much.
TODD: You got it.
VIEIRA: And for more, here's Matt.
LAUER: Alright, Meredith, thank you. NBC's David Gregory is moderator of Meet the Press. David, good morning to you.
DAVID GREGORY: Good morning, Matt.
LAUER: How about those gasps in the room. I mean, when the reporters were covering this, they gasped in shock. This is a surprise. We're less than a year into the first term of this president and there are no -- I'm not trying to be, you know, rude here -- no major foreign policy achievements, to date. So why did he win?
GREGORY: Well, I think, as the citation points out, this is a lot more about tone than it is substantive accomplishment. In many ways, this is a European body who is more left-leaning, certainly, and opposed to the administration of George W. Bush. The Bush administration came in turning away from large international alliances, seeking to do away with the anti-ballistic missile treaty with Russia, doing away with the agreement over Kyoto on international climate change, and here comes Barack Obama and he's got a much different outlook about international alliances, international organizations, about climate, about dialogue -- even with your enemies. It's a complete change in tone, and that's what they appear to be validating.
LAUER: So, what you're saying in some ways, and, again, not to be rude here, or sarcastic, that in some ways he wins this award for not being George W. Bush.
GREGORY: I mean, I think that that is an inescapable conclusion about all of this. The irony: they cite non-proliferation as a goal, a willingness to have dialogue, to re-engage in parts of the Middle East. The Obama administration, so far, carrying out in terms of non-proliferation a very similar strategy to what the Bush administration did on Iran and North Korea so far -- notable differenc is a willingness to talk to the Iranians. And, in fact, there's a debate within the White House about whether to escalate in the war in Afghanistan. And, as a political matter, climate change is still something that even the administration says is not going to be something that can be accomplished this year. So, again, this appears to be tone over actual accomplishment here.
LAUER: Well, let's talk politics, then. How is this likely to be treated by conservatives? Is this a bit of a double-edged sword for the President? It's no secret that conservatives have opposed some of his foreign policy initiatives, reaching out to Iran, allowing former President Clinton to go to North Korea on that mission to free those U.S. journalists. Even that early speech in Egypt to the Arab world -- a lot of critics, conservatives, called it the ‘Obama apology tour.’ So how are they gonna deal with this?
GREGORY: Well, I think you can pick up the script from there. I mean, just like during the campaign, when the President campaigned overseas, and a lot of conservatives thought that was odd and portrayed him as the international rock star, and that you can only get love for America if you apologize for America. Obviously, the White House would make a different argument, that re-engagement in the world is actually a better path toward peace, particularly after the Bush years.
And of course, we have, here we have the President on the world stage two weeks in a row -- last week, it was going to Copenhagen trying to bring the Olympic games here, and he gets rebuffed. This week, he gets embraced by the international community for who he is, what he believes for, in, what he stands for in terms of being a man of peace. So on the world stage, quite shocking. And, again, I think his conservative critics will say, you know, a lot of sizzle here, but not a lot of accomplishment, and that's probably where they'll pick it up.
LAUER: Right, and the bottom line is it looks great on your mantle and on your resume, but it doesn't help you get health care reform passed, or help you solve the problem of Afghanistan.
GREGORY: I guarantee you, as honored and humbled as I'm sure the President is by this award, he would much rather have unemployment rate go down from 9.8% than this right now.
LAUER: Alright, David Gregory in Washington this morning, with some surprising news coming out of Europe.