On Friday's NBC Today, following a sound bite of President Obama attacking Republicans for using the word "appeasement" to describe his foreign policy, chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd proclaimed: "I think [Obama] would love to have a foreign policy conversation. That's why you're not going to hear this much."
Substitute co-host and Meet the Press moderator David Gregory raised the issue, noting that the President has, "been attacked this week by Republicans for practicing a policy, in their words, of 'appeasement' in foreign affairs." After playing Obama's response, he prompted Todd by observing: "That sounded like a president who said, 'If you want to have this fight, let's have this fight.'"
In his defense of Obama, Todd dismissed any Republican attempt raise questions about Obama's foreign policy: "I can promise you this, David, whoever the nominee is, they're not going to have a foreign policy conversation. They want to have an economic one. Because you know what? Every time they have foreign policy conversation, they're going to hear the President talk – say three words, 'Osama Bin Laden.'"
Here is a full transcript of the December 9 segment:
DAVID GREGORY: Now to presidential politics. We're just 3 ½ weeks away from the Iowa caucuses and the battle for the Republican nomination appears to be shaping up into a two-man race between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Chuck Todd is NBC's political director and chief White House correspondent. Hey, Chuck, good morning.
CHUCK TODD: Good morning, David.
GREGORY: So we've been talking about Gingrich and Romney and this two-man dynamic now. You see Romney starting to respond to that. Not just going after Obama, now taking on Gingrich. How is he doing it?
TODD: Well, he's doing it two-fold right now. The first – the first thing is to get surrogates. One thing that's out there is there is a ton of Republicans who have worked with Newt Gingrich who want to do whatever it takes to stop Newt Gingrich. So on one hand, that's good news for Mitt Romney, he's got plenty of resources to tap into.
The other thing that he's using is the so-called super-PAC and money. You're going to see millions of dollars, in fact, it might be the largest ad buy ever placed in the state of Iowa, by his super-PAC, which, of course, they technically don't coordinate, supposedly. But we already know they're previewing a potential Gingrich spot. Now, what's unclear is whether this could work in a year where money hasn't mattered the way it's mattered in the past.
GREGORY: And step back for a second and let's talk about Gingrich. We look at all the polling this week that shows him shooting ahead. What's driving that, if you look inside the polls, Chuck?
TODD: Well, everything is about the fact that he's winning the Tea Party conservative, the anti-Washington, anti-establishment feeling that dominated the Republican Party in the 2010 election. It's still there. It's about half of the electorate. And that's helping him. Inversely, what's hurting Romney is that conservatives don't believe he's a conservative. So Gingrich is viewed as the lone alternative there.
And one thing Gingrich has going for him that I think the establishment underestimates with Newt – and yes, he's had different positions on different issues over the years – he is seen as being there at the seminal moment of the conservative movement, and that was winning back Congress, something that at the time in 1994 hadn't been done in over – almost two generations.
GREGORY: Let me spend a couple seconds talking about President Obama. He's not really talking about the Republican field. He's letting surrogates do that. But this was an exception. He's been attacked this week by Republicans for practicing a policy, in their words, of "appeasement" in foreign affairs. He had a press briefing yesterday in the briefing room, this is what he said.
BARACK OBAMA: Ask Osama Bin Laden and the 22 out of 30 top Al Qaeda leaders who've been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement. Or whoever's left out there, ask them about that.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: "Ask Osama Bin Laden"; President Bristles at Question on National Security]
GREGORY: That sounded like a president who said, "If you want to have this fight, let's have this fight."
TODD: Yeah. I think he would love to have a foreign policy conversation. That's why you're not going to hear this much. Look, the Republicans were at a Republican Jewish coalition meeting this – so, you know, they were talking a lot about Iran and Israel, but I can promise you this, David, whoever the nominee is, they're not going to have a foreign policy conversation. They want to have an economic one. Because you know what? Every time they have foreign policy conversation, they're going to hear the President talk – say three words, "Osama Bin Laden."
GREGORY: Right, okay. Chuck Todd this morning, thank you very much. Quick programming note if I might, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul will be one of our exclusive guests this Sunday on Meet the Press. Also going to talk to Assistant Majority Leader in the Senate, Dick Durbin and Republican Senator Lindsay Graham as they debate the fight for the middle class that President Obama talked about.