Chuck Todd Laments Obama As 'A President Whose Potential Wasn't Realized'

On Tuesday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer and Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd began writing Barack Obama's political obituary, but did so in the most sympathetic way possible. Lauer cited a line from Todd's new book on the President: "And you write that in the foreseeable future, quote, 'He [Obama] will be a president whose potential wasn't realized.' He came to Washington promising to bridge the political divide, change the discourse. Has that been his biggest failure?"

Todd replied: "I think when you look at it, that was the great promise of Barack Obama. The guy in 2004 showed up at the convention, he was the one that was going to break this polarization....I think he will admit some day that's his greatest disappointment, and that's what this book's about, sort of the struggles he had to change Washington. Did he go Washington more than he changed it?"

Lauer and Todd began the exchange by discussing the President dealing with big Democratic midterm losses during his trip to Asia. Lauer observed: "It's nice to get a change of scenery after a big whoopin'. He's over in Asia at the APEC summit, he wants to project an air of strength for the United States, but he's coming off a big loss."

Todd noted that foreign policy might not be Obama's best refuge:

He is, but in many ways, getting out of the country is the easiest thing to do. You know, he did a similar thing after the last midterm shellacking. And so in some ways, throw himself into foreign policy. But look, foreign policy ain't going so hot these for him, whether it's the face-to-face showdowns with Putin, where there was that uncomfortable moment earlier today, or yesterday, or what's going on, of course, with ISIS.

Lauer followed up by wondering if Russian President Vladimir Putin, also attending the economic summit, would "sense weakness" in Obama. Todd argued: "I think he [Putin] always has thought he has sensed weakness in him [Obama], but I think that at the same time, the President has tried very hard not to play into that stereotype too much..."

Here is a full transcript of the November 11 segment:

7:08 AM ET

MATT LAUER: Let's turn to politics now. It's been just one week since the midterm elections, but the race for 2016 is already heating up. Former President George W. Bush told Savannah that his brother, Jeb, knows he can do the job. This as President Obama deals with an array of challenges during his trip to Asia, including a face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Chuck Todd is moderator of Meet the Press and author of a new book called The Stranger: Barack Obama in the White House. Hey, Chuck, good morning. Congratulations.

CHUCK TODD: Thank you, sir.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: The President vs. Putin; Tensions Remain Amidst Asian Meeting]

LAUER: Let's talk about the President. It's nice to get a change of scenery after a big whoopin'.

TODD: Yes.

LAUER: He's over in Asia at the APEC summit, he wants to project an air of strength for the United States, but he's coming off a big loss.

TODD: He is, but in many ways, getting out of the country is the easiest thing to do. You know, he did a similar thing after the last midterm shellacking. And so in some ways, throw himself into foreign policy. But look, foreign policy ain't going so hot these for him, whether it's the face-to-face showdowns with Putin, where there was that uncomfortable moment earlier today, or yesterday, or what's going on, of course, with ISIS.

LAUER: And so, we've got one president licking his wounds in Barack Obama. Does that force Vladimir Putin to lick his chops a little bit? Does he sense weakness?

TODD: I think he always has thought he has sensed weakness in him, but I think that at the same time, the President has tried very hard not to play into that stereotype too much, because he knows that Putin sort of almost loves the theatrics so much so the way Barack Obama hates theatrics.

LAUER: Let's talk about 2016. George W. Bush told Savannah here on the show yesterday that he knows – his brother knows he can do the job, but a lot of people are asking the question, can Jeb Bush win primaries in conservative states? What are you hearing in Washington?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Jeb Bush In 2016?; Back In Spotlight After Brother's Admission]

TODD: From what I understand is, if he runs, the people around him and even he is on this idea that he wouldn't even try to be winning some of these more conservative primaries, that if he got into the race, it would be a very general election campaign. Think of the way, remember Rudy Giuliani, the way he promised to do that.

LAUER: Well, wait a second, that brings up a bad memory for – because he didn't do so well.

TODD: No, he didn't, but they believe they can't win in places like Iowa or the very conservative [states], where there's going to be a whole bunch of other conservatives. He's got two issues that are so unpopular, his stance on immigration, his stance on education. It is just like pouring gasoline on a fire with conservatives.

LAUER: Do you think he's going to run?

TODD: My gut still says no.

LAUER: Let's talk about Barack Obama. Your new book is called The Stranger, and you analyze what his legacy might be. And you write that in the foreseeable future, quote, "He will be a president whose potential wasn't realized." He came to Washington promising to bridge the political divide, change the discourse. Has that been his biggest failure?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: "The Stranger" Among Us; Chuck's New Book On Obama In the White House]

TODD: I think when you look at it, that was the great promise of Barack Obama. The guy in 2004 showed up at the convention, he was the one that was going to break this polarization. When he leaves the White House, we're going to have 24 straight years of this red versus blue. I think he will admit some day that's his greatest disappointment, and that's what this book's about, sort of the struggles he had to change Washington. Did he go Washington more than he changed it?

LAUER: He ran as a stranger six years ago and now that word "stranger" is seen as a negative for him.

TODD: I think that's right.

LAUER: Chuck Todd. Chuck, thanks very much.

TODD: You got it.

LAUER: Congratulations again on the book.

TODD: Thank you, sir.

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