White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs appeared on all three major morning shows, on Wednesday, and was pressed by ABC, CBS and NBC's anchors about whether or not the President would fold and compromise with the Republicans on keeping the Bush era tax cuts in place - but it was the Today show's Meredith Vieira that hit him the strongest question from the left as she asked Gibbs what kind of "message" would Barack Obama "send to his base" if he doesn't raise taxes on the wealthy, adding, "many of whom already wonder what happened to the fighter they elected president?"
Vieira began her interview with Gibbs by noting that, according to her NBC colleague Chuck Todd, White House officials were "privately conceding that the President will bend on this tax issue" and that would include "tax cuts for every one, including the very wealthy" and continued to repeatedly push Gibbs to say if Obama would support tax increases on the rich, something Matt Lauer also did in his interview yesterday morning with Republican Congressman Eric Cantor.
Over on ABC's Good Morning America, George Stephanopoulos bolstered the left's soak the rich line as he tried to get Gibbs to reassure Obama's base: "You just said extending the tax cuts for the wealthy is a line in the sand. Does that mean the President would veto any bill that extends the tax cuts for the wealthy?"
(video after the jump)
On CBS's The Early Show, co-anchor Harry Smith, in his tax question to Gibbs, put the onus on Republicans to compromise as he asked: "But at the end of the day, nobody – everybody realizes that there will be – that the Bush tax cuts will be extended for just about everybody and the only thing left to quibble about is does the White House want to tax people with – who make $250,000 or make a million dollars? And are the Republicans really ready to deal on that?"
The following are more complete exchanges from the Gibbs interviews as they were aired on the December 1 editions of NBC's Today show, ABC's Good Morning America and CBS's The Early Show:
MEREDITH VIEIRA: Let me start with something that Chuck mentioned in his piece that White House officials are privately conceding that the President will bend on this tax issue and allow for the temporary extension of tax cuts for every one, including the very wealthy. Will you go on the record publicly about that this morning? Is the President willing and ready to make that compromise?
ROBERT GIBBS: Well Meredith, the President is gonna send his representatives, our budget director Jack Lew and our Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner up to Capitol Hill to begin talks on that compromise. Our principles are fairly, I think straight forward, Meredith. First and foremost, we should make permanent middle class tax cuts. Those that are in the middle class shouldn't see their taxes s go up at the end of the year when some of these tax cuts expire. But at the same time we can't afford to make permanent tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires-
VIEIRA: But will he allow for a temporary-
GIBBS: -at a cost of $700 billion.
VIEIRA: But will he allow a temporary extension of that tax rate for the very wealthy as White House officials are saying privately?
GIBBS: Well Meredith all I'm gonna say is that those negotiations begin today. I think the President believes that somewhere in all of this we can find common ground to strengthen our economy, to create jobs and to ensure first and foremost that the middle class in this country doesn't see their tax rates go up on New Year's Day.
VIEIRA: The President has said repeatedly, Mr. Gibbs, that, that he is opposed to extending tax cuts for the wealthy, so if he does make this compromise what message is that going to send to his base, many of whom already wonder what happened to the fighter that they elected president?
GIBBS: Well the fighter they elected president got a lot done in the last two years. But we also understand, Meredith, that we have the responsibility, both parties do, to govern this country. We're not likely to get everything that we want just as Republicans aren't likely to get everything that they want. That's how you move forward in government and that's how we find common ground. I think that's what the American people want. They didn't vote in November for gridlock, they didn't vote for the continuation of the same partisan political gains that they have come to understand dominate Washington. They want two political parties that can sit at a table like yesterday, talk civilly to one another and come out of that room and get some things done on behalf of the American people, that strengthen our economy.
Good Morning America
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's turn to the domestic issues right now. We heard Senator McConnell in Jon Karl's piece say that Republicans are absolutely united behind the principles that no one's taxes at all should go up. Many Democrats have also joined that position. Doesn't that mean that there's going to have to be a temporary extension for all the tax cuts?
GIBBS: Well, George, as you know, the President yesterday in meeting with bipartisan leaders, appointed our OMB Director Jack Lew and our Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to sit down with members and senators to start work through a compromise. The President's principles are clear. And that is for the middle class, their taxes cannot go up when a series of tax cuts expire. His other line in the sand, quite frankly, George, is that many Republicans would like to see the tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires extended permanently. That's borrowing $700 billion from countries like China, money we don't have. So, the President has tasked those individuals to find some amount of common ground that exists in the parameters that I just laid out. I think the President's very optimistic, though, that we can get something that keeps our economy moving, that strengthens our economic recovery, and most importantly, doesn't raise taxes on middle-class Americans.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, you just said extending the tax cuts for the wealthy is a line in the sand. Does that mean the President would veto any bill that extends the tax cuts for the wealthy?
GIBBS: Well, no. I said something that would permanently extend the tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Ahh, okay. That's helpful.
The Early Show
HARRY SMITH: I'm reading the Washington Post this morning and Dana Milbank refers to the summit yesterday at the White House as the 'Slurpee Summit, nothing but empty calories.' Did anything of any real substance happen there yesterday in those two hours?
GIBBS: Well, Harry, the meeting I was in, I think we had some agreement on a pathway forward to get things done for the American people and find common ground, which incidentally is exactly what they want. The President appointed Jack Lew, our OMB director, budget director, Tim Geithner, our Treasury secretary, to sit down, beginning today, with members of the House and the Senate to find again a pathway forward on ensuring that middle-class Americans don't see their taxes go up at the end of the year when a series of tax cuts expire.
SMITH: But at the end of the day, nobody – everybody realizes that there will be – that the Bush tax cuts will be extended for just about everybody and the only thing left to quibble about is does the White House want to tax people with – who make $250,000 or make a million dollars? And are the Republicans really ready to deal on that?
GIBBS: Well, let's be clear, Harry, that every person in America benefits from those Bush-era tax cuts, up to $250,000 right now. Right now, there's tax cuts for everybody. The President's position is we ought to make permanent those tax cuts for the middle-class because the middle-class has gotten battered over – not just the past two years in this recession but the ten years leading up to it. And I would say this, the President has drawn the line that we shouldn't make permanent the tax cuts, as you said, for millionaires and billionaires, that's borrowing $700 billion from overseas in order to pay for that. So somewhere in the middle of that we'll find a compromise that moves our country forward and strengthens our economic recovery.
—Geoffrey Dickens is the Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here