NBC's Vieira to RNC Chairman: Doesn't Economic Recovery 'Throw a Monkey Wrench' Into GOP Argument Against Obama Spending?

On Tuesday's NBC Today, co-host Meredith Vieira grilled Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on GOP criticism of the massive spending of the Obama administration: "...sixth consecutive month of job growth, unemployment numbers lowest in two years, it certainly appears that there is a recovery. So doesn't that throw a real monkey wrench into your argument?"

Priebus pointed out: "Under this president – he's promised millions and millions of jobs –  we've lost 26 million jobs, Meredith, since he's been president. He promised under an $850 billion stimulus program that we'd be on the path to recovery. Well, none of that has come true." Undeterred, Vieira followed by declaring: "And yet, even some Republican economists have said that in criticizing these numbers, the Republicans run the risk of looking like they're cheering for an economic reversal."

Vieira went on to call for Republicans to back down in the budget battle: "Will the Republicans compromise on this budget to prevent a government shutdown?" Priebus replied: "The only people that are talking about a government shutdown right now, Meredith, are the Democrats....It's the Republicans that are serious about these issues. It's the President that's filling out NCAA brackets, going to the Jonas Brothers, and golfing, and not tackling any of these issues and only criticizing Republicans."

At the beginning of the interview, Vieira questioned why Republican 2012 candidates had not yet formally announced: "Aren't you worried about playing catch-up here? I mean, these candidates will be running against an incumbent who could raise up to a billion dollars, that is unprecedented." Priebus remarked: "Well, you're right, this president is very good at raising big cash from fat cat donors. And that's what he's good at. Unfortunately, what he isn't good at is getting our finances on the rails." Vieira quickly turned the discussion back to the GOP: " Let's talk about the Republicans rather than him. Why aren't the Republicans getting into the race already?"

On Monday, fellow co-host Matt Lauer similarly urged Republicans to enter the race while touting the official announcement of President Obama's re-election bid: "...he could become the first candidate ever to raise a billion dollars. Will Republican hopefuls sitting on the sidelines be compelled to dive in as well?"

At the end of the interview with Priebus on Tuesday, Vieira decided to lighten things up by playing a clip of comedian Stephen Colbert making fun of the new RNC chairman's name: "What's a Reince Priebus? Folks, this could be the perfect name for the chairman of the RNC, which, I believe, is pronounced 'Recce.'" Vieira then asked: "So for the record, how do you say your name?"

If only Priebus had a more common name, like Barack Obama.

Here is a full transcript of April 5 segment:

7:10AM ET

MEREDITH VIEIRA: Reince Priebus is the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Mr. Prebius, good morning to you.

PRIEBUS: Hey, good morning, Meredith. Happy to be on the show.

VIEIRA: Good to have you here sir.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: GOP Top Gun; Republican Chief on 2012 Election]

You know, I went back and looked at where Republicans were at this point in the last election cycle. Nine of them were already in the running at that point. This time around, no one has officially declared his or her candidacy. Why not?

PRIEBUS: Well, Meredith, you know, this president we have now, he's – we call the campaigner-in-chief. He doesn't stop campaigning. And at a time when we are about to face a government shutdown, we're debating the budget over the next six months, we're delivering a serious budget today, this president shows how tone deaf he is by announcing that he's running for president yesterday.

Now as far as your question, I don't think there's any doubt that we're going to have many serious candidates on the Republican side of the aisle running for president to try to get our fiscal train back on the rails in this country, which this president has completely derailed, Meredith.

VIEIRA: But aren't you worried about playing catch-up here? I mean, these candidates will be running against an incumbent who could raise up to a billion dollars, that is unprecedented. And time matters, especially if you're a candidate who is not well known or does not have a lot of money. It takes time to build up both of those things.

PRIEBUS: Well, you're right, this president is very good at raising big cash from fat cat donors. And that's what he's good at. Unfortunately, what he isn't good at is getting our finances on the rails.

VIEIRA: Let's talk about the Republicans rather than him. Why aren't the Republicans getting into the race already?

PRIEBUS: Why aren't the Republicans getting into the race? There are many Republicans, as you pointed out on your show. There are at least a dozen candidates right now that are testing the waters. And I think there's going to be plenty of time, Meredith, to get the message out. I think the first question is going to be to the American people, 'Are you better off today than you were three years ago?' And I think most people are going to say no to that. So the Republicans are going to be out there. We're going to have plenty of candidates. I don't think there's any doubt about it that we're going to have candidates articulate a clear message of getting our economy back on track, bringing good paying jobs to Americans-

VIEIRA: Let's – let's talk.

PRIEBUS: And getting our debts and deficits under control.

VIEIRA: Okay, let's talk about the message. In a press release on the RNC website, you write, 'The debt and reckless spending championed by this administration threatens to snuff out the recovery and future job growth.' But if look at the recent numbers, sixth consecutive month of job growth, unemployment numbers lowest in two years, it certainly appears that there is a recovery. So doesn't that throw a real monkey wrench into your argument?

PRIEBUS: No, not at all. Under this president – he's promised millions and millions of jobs –  we've lost 26 million jobs, Meredith, since he's been president. He promised under an $850 billion stimulus program that we'd be on the path to recovery. Well, none of that has come true. He's completely trashed Medicare by raiding it by $500 billion to provide us a government-run health care program that nobody wants. I think that pointing out a snail's pace in the job numbers is not going to be enough to undo 26 million jobs that are lost, Meredith. And I think the American people are tired of the rhetoric and they want substance and this president has not provided it.

VIEIRA: And yet, even some Republican economists have said that in criticizing these numbers, the Republicans run the risk of looking like they're cheering for an economic reversal.

PRIEBUS: No, I don't – that's not the case, Meredith. I mean, we want to get serious about where this country is going when it comes to our runaway deficits, our taxes, and our spending in this country. I think even the hardest Democrats would agree that if we don't get serious about where Medicare and Social Security and Medicaid are going in this country, that we're about to walk off a fiscal cliff. These are promises that we all know the government can't keep and it's the Republicans that are getting serious about these issues in order to save Medicare-

VIEIRA: Will the Republicans compromise-

PRIEBUS: And save Social Security.

VIEIRA: Will the Republicans compromise on this budget to prevent a government shutdown?

PRIEBUS: The only people that are talking about a government shutdown right now, Meredith, are the Democrats. And you know, I think that you've seen Republicans working hard every single day trying to come up with a C.R. solution on where we're going and spending over the next six months. Paul Ryan and Speaker Boehner introducing a serious-as-a-heart-attack budget this morning that will tackle $6 trillion over the next ten years in spending in this country. It's the Republicans that are serious about these issues. It's the President that's filling out NCAA brackets, going to the Jonas Brothers, and golfing, and not tackling any of these issues and only criticizing Republicans.

VIEIRA: And finally, just to switch gears here for a second, when you were first selected to be – elected to be chairman of the RNC, there was a lot made of your name. A lot of people had fun with it, including Stephen Colbert. Let's take a look at this.

PRIEBUS: You bet.

STEPHEN COLBERT: What's a Reince Priebus? Folks, this could be the perfect name for the chairman of the RNC, which, I believe, is pronounced 'Recce.'

VIEIRA: So for the record, how do you say your name? Then we'll put it on a loop.

PRIEBUS: You bet, it's ryntz-pree-bus. And my wife has watched that video many times. That's what happens when a Greek and a German get married, it's a bit of a clash of cultures, Meredith.

VIEIRA: Okay, Reince Priebus, chairman of the RNC. Thank you very much.

PRIEBUS: Thank you.

— Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.
 

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC