Meet the Press host David Gregory on Wednesday derided the Republican National Committee Chairman as "low-minded" for his response to the release of Barack Obama's long-form birth certificate. Jansing and Co. guest host Savannah Guthrie lauded the President for looking "like the most reasonable man in Washington."
Appearing just minutes after the President completed a press conference on the release, Gregory responded to a statement by Chairman Reince Priebus which both dismissed birtherism and attacked Obama for playing up the issue. The NBC host opined that the Republican operative was both "high-minded and low-minded at the same time."
After complimenting Priebus for dismissing the issue, he scolded, "...To somehow blame the President for seeking to distract the country through this birth certificate issue seems to be well off the mark."
It didn't seem to occur to the journalist that the job of a political party's chairman is, simply, to attack. Reporters are not often quick to slam the head of the DNC.
Gregory appeared eager to repeat the White House talking points on how the birther issue plays out now: "In this case, [Obama's] quote, 'We do not have time for this kind of silliness.' That was the President this morning. What he's campaigning against now is silliness." (MP3 audio here.)
Guthrie eagerly agreed with this new spin, touting, "...That is the sweet spot as far as the White House is concerned. Any time, in any context, where the President looks like the most reasonable man in Washington, that's the space they're trying to occupy."
A transcript of the segment, which aired at 10:15am EDT on April 27, follows:
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: We have some developing news, the RNC chairman, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, has released a statement, quote "As I repeatedly stated, this issue is a distraction. Our economy is strained from out of control deficits, debt and unsustainable entitlements. The President ought to spend his time getting serious about repairing our economy working with Republicans and focusing on the long-term stability of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Unfortunately his campaign politics and talk about birth certificates is distracting him from our number priority, our economy. " Let me get to David Gregory. That's an interesting statement. On the one hand, the Republican National Committee Chairman saying there's nothing to this issue and at the same time laying it at feet of the President as though he has created this issue. We can hasten to remind folks that about 45 percent of Republicans in a recent New York Times poll said they questioned whether the President was born in this country. David, your thoughts this morning?
DAVID GREGORY: Well, Chairman Priebus was high-minded and low-minded at the same time. I mean, to come out and dismiss this as a distraction was, I think, a responsible thing to do as a leader in the Republican Party. But then to somehow blame the President for seeking to distract the country through this birth certificate issue seems to be well off the mark. Look, there's a couple of considerations here and you've been talking about it. The White House going back to the campaign realized that this was something that was going to be fueled by conspiracy people. The short form wasn't enough, as you point out. I've talked to somebody inside the White House who said they had to get the waiver from Hawaii to get that long form out there. They made the decision along the way to dismiss this, not to the put this out, not to dignify it. The President told our colleague Brian Williams in an interview, "Look I'm not going to walk around with my birth certificate plastered to my forehead."
His words. Then they obviously made a decision citing the poll you mentioned, our polling, too, indicating nearly five in ten Republicans question or believed the President was born outside the United States. They see Donald Trump out there getting media attention around this issue and think this is a distraction. It's getting too much traction at the wrong time. Let's come out and do something about it. You can question whether they should have done something then, doing something now, they obviously want to put it to bed. Joe Lockhart made an interesting statement in the last segment, which is as politician, as a president, you want to campaign and pivot off someone, campaign against someone or something.
In this case, his quote, "We do not have time for this kind of silliness." That was the President this morning. What he's campaigning against now is silliness. He's saying to independent voters, "Look, these guys on the right, they're going to get distracted with the silliness. They're going to pay attention to Donald Trump. I'm focusing on your gas prices. I'm focused on cutting government spending." I think that's where he wanted to take advantage of if he was going to make the late decision to put all this out, I think he wanted to use it for maximum impact.
GUTHRIE: Yeah. Indeed. You really put your finger on it, David, because, of course, that is the sweet spot as far as the White House is concerned. Any time, in any context, where the President looks like the most reasonable man in Washington, that's the space they're trying to occupy. Let me turn to Chuck Todd.