Lauer Sticks Up for Obama On Charge He's Soft on Terror: 'Get Rid of It'

NBC's Matt Lauer dismissed the idea that Barack Obama was weak on terrorism, as the Today co-anchor, on Wednesday's show, wanted to "get rid" of the notion that "the President doesn't take the threat of terrorism seriously enough because he's not out there talking about it every day." Lauer, in a political roundup segment in the 7am half hour, also spun the retirements of Democratic Senators Chris Dodd and Byron Dorgan as something "that might work out better in the long haul," for the Dems.

First up Lauer, in a question to former White House press secretary and current Fox News contributor Dana Perino, dismissed the idea Obama isn't taking the threat of terrorism seriously enough.

MATT LAUER: Let me, let me touch on another aspect of this, and I'd like to touch it on it just briefly, because I do think we can get rid of it. This, this idea Dana, that people are saying the President doesn't take the threat of terrorism seriously enough because he's not out there talking about it every day. We hear him talk about health care and the economy. Can we admit that any wartime president deals with terrorism on a daily basis, even if he is not out there speaking about it on a daily basis?

Then a little bit later in the segment Lauer asked former White House communications director Anita Dunn if there was a silver-lining for the Democratic Party, with the retirements of Dodd and Dorgan:

LAUER: And Anita, I am going to ask you one last question in 10, 15 seconds, if you can. The, the, the decision by Chris Dodd and Byron Dorgan to not seek re-election, is this a bad PR day for Democrats today that might work out better in the long haul?

The following is complete transcript of the segment as it was aired on the January 6 Today show:

MATT LAUER: Fox News contributor Dana Perino served as White House press secretary for President George W. Bush. Anita Dunn is the former White House communications director for President Obama. Ladies, good morning to both of you.

DANA PERINO, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Good morning.

ANITA DUNN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Good morning, Matt. And Happy New Year, Dana.

PERINO: Thank you.

LAUER: Thank you to both of you. Dana, let me start with you and start with this failed attempt to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253. A lot of problems, a lot of mistakes. The President now says, "The system failed in a potentially disastrous way. Intelligence was not fully analyzed or fully leveraged, it's not acceptable, I will not tolerate it." So, simple question -- does someone have to lose his or her job over this?

PERINO: I don't necessarily think so. I think that President Obama has to make those decisions. A lot of people wake up in the morning when they work on Capitol Hill and think, "I'm just gonna call for somebody's resignation today." I actually think that, possibly, President Obama thinks that would actually be very disruptive to the current system. Now one way to change the narrative-

LAUER: But if you put the system in place. If you put a system in place and you put key people into that system, in important positions, and they fail, collectively-

PERINO: Well he, that's why he ordered a review, and I think that he's doing the right thing in checking it all out. I do think that initially, the first reaction, the first statement from President Obama was that this was an isolated incident, an isolated person. That is dangerous. I would like to know, how did he -- who gave him that initial information? That's what was dangerous, but looks to me like they're trying to right the ship now. Maybe somebody will lose their jobs after this review, but I think it's right not to maybe just fire off a shot.

LAUER: Anita, the system, or some people in it, have been compromised, haven't they?

DUNN: No Matt, I think what Dana said is important, which is when something like this happens, as the President said, you do a review, you figure out what went wrong, you fix what needs to be fixed, going into the future, and above all, you do what you need to do to keep the American people safe and secure, which is the commitment President Obama made when he took office. It's the commitment he is going to keep. I think that the review is going to be very important for the White House moving forward to make sure. Maybe there's some things that have been in place for years that were right five years ago aren't right for today. We face an enemy that is nimble, quick and ever changing their tactics. We have to be as nimble and quick as well.

LAUER: Right.

DUNN: And I think that that's one of the things that is going to be important coming out of this is how do we stay one step ahead as opposed to playing catch-up.

LAUER: Let me, let me touch on another aspect of this, and I'd like to touch it on it just briefly, because I do think we can get rid of it. This, this idea Dana, that people are saying the President doesn't take the threat of terrorism seriously enough because he's not out there talking about it every day. We hear him talk about health care and the economy. Can we admit that any wartime president deals with terrorism on a daily basis, even if he is not out there speaking about it on a daily basis?

PERINO: I have no doubt, that as soon as President Obama walked into the Oval Office he realized the full weight of his responsibilities, and I'm sure it's the first thing that he thinks about every morning that he wakes up. Here's where the problem is, though, Matt. It's not whether or not that's what the focus is internally, it's that people around the world, and especially in America, feel like they haven't heard enough about it. It's not that-, it's not that-

LAUER: You're saying he has an image problem?

PERINO: Well, I think that they have written a comm-, they have written a narrative that he is interested in it, but not as interested in it as maybe they would like him to be.

LAUER: Written a narrative? Anita, is Dana trying to hint at the choice of words he uses here sometimes, is that the problem?

DUNN: You know, Matt, I think it's interesting that, that people, particularly some of the Republicans who have tried to politicize this, are now reduced to quibbling about semantics. I mean, the reality is that it was barely a month ago when the President made a major primetime speech to the American people from West Point, New York, precisely on the subject of the war on terror and what we needed to do to continue that and to win it. It is something that he has talked good from his Inaugural. It is something that he has been active on. He is briefed every morning, every morning-

PERINO: Okay but-

DUNN: -as presidents are. And Dana, now let me finish, okay? Which is that the reality is that, you know, that this is something that the administration has been active on. John Brennan made a major speech-

LAUER: Right.

DUNN: -in August outlining the strategy for this administration.

PERINO: But here's the thing-

LAUER: Alright I'm running out of time but I want to give Dana the last word. Go ahead.

DUNN: Okay.

PERINO: Here's the thing Anita. If that were true, we wouldn't be having this discussion today. I'm not trying to make it political, but I am saying that from a narrative standpoint, they have written themselves into a corner. I think they're trying to fix it and I think that it is important that the commander-in- chief have that meeting yesterday and make sure that everybody knows, "This is the top priority and I want you to innovate and get ahead of these terrorists."

LAUER: And Anita, I am going to ask you one last question in 10, 15 seconds, if you can. The, the, the decision by Chris Dodd and Byron Dorgan to not seek re-election, is this a bad PR day for Democrats today that might work out better in the long haul?

DUNN: Matt, six Republican senators have announced they're not running for re-election. Two Democratic senators are announcing they're not running for re-election. You know maybe in Washington new math, that's bad for the Democrats, but the reality is, we're gonna wage active campaigns for both those seats, and I think that they'll both be very competitive.

LAUER: Anita Dunn and Dana Perino. Ladies, thanks. Nice to have you both here.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.