Lauer to Valerie Jarrett: Will Obama Push for 'Tougher' Gun Control in State of the Union Address?

In previewing the President's State of the Union Address, on Tuesday's Today show, NBC's Matt Lauer pushed White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, mostly from the left, as he pressed her to reveal if Obama would "directly address gun control" and asked if Obama's appointment of business leaders to his team, risked "alienating some more liberal voters...who don't like big business."

Appearing in the 7am half hour of this morning's show, Jarrett was questioned by the Today co-anchor if the President was moved, in the wake of the Tuscon shootings, to join New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg's effort to push for "tougher gun laws," as seen in the following exchange:

(video, audio and transcript after the jump)

(MP3 audio)

MATT LAUER: And real quickly, if you will, in the wake of those tragic shootings out in Tucson, there have been calls by some for tougher gun laws in this country. The mayor of New York City, at an event yesterday called on the President to use this opportunity to get tough on gun laws and to change the way background checks are done for gun purchasers. Will the President directly address gun control in tonight's speech?

VALERIE JARRETT: I'm not gonna preview for tonight what he is going to say in the speech, specifically, but what I will say is obviously we're gonna have an empty seat in the chamber. Congresswoman Giffords, although she is recovering, she has a long way to go. It is a reminder of how we have to work to bring down crime, how we have to work to build an environment of civility where we can disagree without leading to violence. And the President clearly has always stated that he supports the assault weapons ban. So I don't want to get to much into the details of tonight. But certainly an empty seat in the House is a reminder for everyone, not just there this evening, but around the country.

However anti-gun legislation wasn't the only topic Jarrett was hit from the left on, as before that back and forth Lauer seemed concerned that Obama's appointment of business leaders like Jeffrey Immelt would turn off Obama's liberal base:

LAUER: One of the things he's doing, Ms. Jarrett, I mean one of the most obvious signs in the last couple of weeks is reaching out to big business, appointing two big business leaders to key posts. So I mean is there a risk-reward in that? Does he risk alienating some more liberal voters who don't like big business, by doing that?

JARRETT: No, I think Matt what he's doing is recognizing that the long term sustainable growth in job creation of our country rests with the private sector. So who better than a Jeff Immelt who's creating jobs right here in America, who's exporting goods that we produce here in America, all around the world, who's bringing jobs back to America to strengthen our economy? Who, better than that to help advise the President? But he has a myriad of advisors from labor, from academia, from business-

LAUER: Right.

JARRETT: Small, medium, large. All, all kinds of businesses, Matt. So I don't think we should jump to conclusions because of one really important appointment.

The following is a transcript of the full interview as it was aired on the January 25 Today show:

MATT LAUER: Valerie Jarrett is the senior advisor to President Obama. Ms. Jarrett nice to see you as always. Thanks for joining us.

VALERIE JARRETT, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR: Thank you, Matt. Good morning.

LAUER: Let's talk about what is being called the President's move to the center. Here is what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had to say over the weekend. Quote: "I'm happy the President's pivoting. We all know why. Let's see if he's really willing to do it and, if he is, I think he'll find a lot of help among Republicans in Congress." So is this about a pivot, a move to the center? Is it a reaction to the last election or is it in preparation for the next election?

JARRETT: None of the above, Matt. What the President is focused on, everyday since he was elected, is what are we going to do to grow our economy, create jobs here in America? He had to make some very tough decisions in the first couple of years. And now what we've seen is the economy is coming back. We're seeing private sector job growth. Over a million private sector jobs this year. The stock market is up so people's retirement funds are increasing.

LAUER: Right.

JARRETT: And now as we look to the future, we really are focusing on winning for America. And so that's gonna be the focus of his speech tonight-

LAUER: But, but one of the things he's doing-

JARRETT: -what can we do together?


LAUER: One of the things he's doing, Ms. Jarrett, I mean one of the most obvious signs in the last couple of weeks is reaching out to big business, appointing two big business leaders to key posts. So I mean is there a risk-reward in that? Does he risk alienating some more liberal voters who don't like big business, by doing that?

JARRETT: No, I think Matt what he's doing is recognizing that the long term sustainable growth in job creation of our country rests with the private sector. So who better than a Jeff Immelt who's creating jobs right here in America, who's exporting goods that we produce here in America, all around the world, who's bringing jobs back to America to strengthen our economy? Who, better than that to help advise the President? But he has a myriad of advisors from labor, from academia, from business-

LAUER: Right.

JARRETT: Small, medium, large. All, all kinds of businesses, Matt. So I don't think we should jump to conclusions because of one really important appointment.

LAUER: Let me ask you about, you know, deficit and spending. Is the President, tonight, going to do what some Democrats criticize Republicans for not doing over the past year or so. Will he get specific about where he will make cuts in spending? Will he embrace some of those tough recommendations from the deficit reduction commission? You know cutting things like Social Security and Medicare and defense?

JARRETT: Tonight's budget is really gonna, tonight's speech will really lay out a framework for the future. In the next few weeks he'll release his budget. His budget will be very specific. On the issue of Social Security the President has said consistently he wants to keep Social Security strong. He doesn't believe in privatizing Social Security and letting it go up and down with the, the marketplace. And so, on that specific point, he will be very clear. But the budget will come out in three weeks. It will be specific.

LAUER: Right.

JARRETT: At the end of tonight's speech I think every American will understand the President is absolutely committed to getting our fiscal house in order, bringing down the deficit.

LAUER: And real quickly, if you will, in the wake of those tragic shootings out in Tucson, there have been calls by some for tougher gun laws in this country. The mayor of New York City, at an event yesterday called on the President to use this opportunity to get tough on gun laws and to change the way background checks are done for gun purchasers. Will the President directly address gun control in tonight's speech?

JARRETT: I'm not gonna preview for tonight what he is going to say in the speech, specifically, but what I will say is obviously we're gonna have an empty seat in the chamber. Congresswoman Giffords, although she is recovering, she has a long way to go. It is a reminder of how we have to work to bring down crime, how we have to work to build an environment of civility where we can disagree without leading to violence. And the President clearly has always stated that he supports the assault weapons ban. So I don't want to get to much into the details of tonight. But certainly an empty seat in the House is a reminder for everyone, not just there this evening, but around the country.

LAUER: Alright Valerie Jarrett. Ms. Jarrett, as always, thank you for your time this morning.

JARRETT: You're welcome Matt.

—Geoffrey Dickens is the Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here

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