NBC's Lauer Asks if Voters Have 'Buyer's Remorse' of GOP Governors, No Mention of Obama's Sagging Poll Numbers

Talking to former Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw on Thursday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer touted low approval ratings for some newly elected Republican governors and theorized: "They went into office with messages of austerity. And now a year later, you look at their approval ratings and they're falling. Is this buyer's remorse?"

A graphic appeared on screen showing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker with a 43% approval rating, Ohio's John Kasich at 33% and Florida's Rick Scott at 29%. Lauer failed to mention that President Obama's own approval rating stood at 43%, according to a Thursday Gallup poll, with his disapproval hitting 50%. In addition, Lauer failed to note that the source for those low Republican approval ratings, Public Policy Polling, was a Democratic polling firm.

Earlier in the segment, Lauer did point out that "44% of the American people now feel they're worse off today than they were when President Obama took office two years ago." Brokaw claimed that was just because the economy had hit a "soft patch," quickly adding, "No one expects this to be a second wave of a recession."

Brokaw then shifted focus to the GOP: "But at the same time, people are saying, 'We'd like to see more cuts and cutting back.' Let's show you now what's going on with some Republican Governors, if we can."

In response to Lauer's speculation that voters were having "buyer's remorse" over electing Republican governors, Brokaw observed: "It's not buyer's remorse. I think it's always a conundrum, the people say, 'We want to get government under control, but do it to someone else.'" He cited Republican efforts to reform Medicare as an example: "You already saw it start to play out with the Medicare debate, as proposed by Paul Ryan. Democrats jumped all over that. Some of the Republicans began to peel back from that. They're going to probably try to find more of a middle ground for it."  

Moving on to the debt ceiling debate, Lauer and Brokaw fretted over the influence conservatives have in congressional negotiations. Lauer remarked: "Tom...you would like people to become familiar with a name they may not know or recognize right now. And that's someone named Grover Norquist. Why is he important?" Brokaw warned: "He runs Americans for Tax Reform, he's got most of the Republicans in the House signing a pledge, 'No new taxes.' Most of the Republican senators as well....He's got an enormous amount of power."

Lauer pushed for a compromise on the issue: "We spoke recently to a high-ranking member of the Republican Party, he said in his opinion this would be done by the Fourth of July because this benefits neither party for it to be dragged out." Brokaw pleaded: "I think that they're going to get to something on debt limit, they've got to do that. The idea that of a default is just – it would be catastrophic, quite honestly."


Here is a full transcript of the June 23 discussion:

7:09AM

MATT LAUER: What does the President's message say about the current mood of the nation? Tom Brokaw's with us this morning. Tom, good to see you.

TOM BROKAW: Good morning, Matt.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Pulse of the Nation; Tom Brokaw on Troop Withdrawal, Economy, & Debt]

LAUER: Do you think the President said what American people wanted to hear last night?

BROKAW: I think so. He had to strike a lot of balances. The military equation, obviously. It is important to talk about the effect of all of this on the economy. And then with 2012 coming up, there's a big political piece of it as well.

LAUER: But do you think he appeased military leaders, those leaders on the ground? I mean, he's basically going to bring home 33,000 of the so-called surge troops by the end of next summer. But he was quick to point out that the rest of the troops probably won't be out of there until the end of 2014. So the job is not completely done.

BROKAW: Well, there'll be 70,000 troops there in 2013. But after 11 years, it is time for the Afghanistan security forces to take responsibility for their own country. The Afghan defense minister said, 'We think this is a good plan.' I was told by White House people that both Admiral Mullen, who's the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Secretary Gates signed off on this. The civilian piece of it does run the Army after all. Obviously there was some push-back on the part of the military, but they lost that fight.

LAUER: There was clearly a political side to this speech and Chuck talked about that. The second part he talked about, 'It's time to do some nation-building here at home.' He's seen the figures that you and I have seen. 44% of the American people now feel they're worse off today than they were when President Obama took office two years ago. They know that this war is costing $10 billion every month. Did he say the right thing to those people?

BROKAW: Well, I think there's a great, great eagerness on the part of everyone to try to get this economy kick-started. The Chairman of the Fed, Bernanke, said just yesterday the head winds are stronger than we'd like to see them. We're in what a lot of people are calling a soft patch. No one expects this to be a second wave of a recession. But it is always 'About the economy, stupid,' when you're going into an election year, and the President is next year, with the numbers not getting better faster for him. But at the same time, people are saying, 'We'd like to see more cuts and cutting back.' Let's show you now what's going on with some Republican Governors, if we can.

LAUER: Yeah, let's talk about these other numbers. Some of the Republicans who took office a year ago, people like Scott Walker in Wisconsin, John Kasich in Ohio, Rick Scott down in Florida. They went into office with messages of austerity. And now a year later, you look at their approval ratings and they're falling. Is this buyer's remorse?

[ON-SCREEN GRAPHIC: Public Policy Polling Approval Ratings]

BROKAW: It's not buyer's remorse. I think it's always a conundrum, the people say, 'We want to get government under control, but do it to someone else.'

LAUER: Right, 'Don't cut things that are important to me.'

BROKAW: 'Don't cut in my back yard.' And we're going to have that debate big time coming into the next year. You already saw it start to play out with the Medicare debate, as proposed by Paul Ryan. Democrats jumped all over that. Some of the Republicans began to peel back from that. They're going to probably try to find more of a middle ground for it. But that's where we are.

LAUER: As the debate in Washington heats up, Tom, over raising the debt ceiling, you would like people to become familiar with a name they may not know or recognize right now. And that's someone named Grover Norquist. Why is he important?

BROKAW: He runs Americans for Tax Reform, he's got most of the Republicans in the House signing a pledge, 'No new taxes.' Most of the Republican senators as well. Whenever there's a negotiation and they talk about revenue enhancement, even when it's applying, for example, the killing of the ethanol tax subsidy to the deficit, he fights that. He's got an enormous amount of power.

And Jim Baker, the Reagan Treasury secretary, has come with a plan, because he doesn't think they're going to get a big deal before the end of the summer. He says why not extend the debt limit for six months until next year and then build in some spending benchmarks that you can get to and then everyone can agree on that. The idea that we're going to get something really big before the end of the year seems very unlikely.

LAUER: It's funny, we spoke recently to a high-ranking member of the Republican Party, he said in his opinion this would be done by the Fourth of July because this benefits neither party for it to be dragged out.

BROKAW: Yeah, I think that they're going to get to something on debt limit, they've got to do that. The idea that of a default is just – it would be catastrophic, quite honestly. How big it's going to be, that's the real question. The White House would like to have something very large, all inclusive. They think it would be a strong signal to the American people. But what we're playing here is presidential politics for next year and no one wants to either be blamed or to not have credit for that.

LAUER: Tom Brokaw. Tom, good to see you, as always.

BROKAW: Good to see you, Matt.

LAUER: Pleasure.

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