NBC's 'Today' Asks: How Can Obama 'Regain the Magic of 2008?'

During an interview with former Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Tuesday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer wondered: "How does the President get this excitement going again surrounding his re-election bid so that he can keep this office?" Throughout the segment, the headline on screen read: "Beyond Hope and Change; How Can President Regain Magic of 2008?"

In response to Lauer, Gibbs claimed: "First and foremost, the President is not focused on keeping his job. Most of all, he's focused on creating jobs for the American people." Gibbs also used the opportunity to bash the GOP: "The Republicans are going to have to make a choice. Are they going to swear allegiance to the Tea Party or are they going to work on behalf of the United States of America?"

Lauer challenged Gibbs on the President's supposed plan to fix the economy: "This idea that the President says he's got this new plan to jump-start the economy....where was this plan a month ago when we were in the middle of the deficit, you know, debate, the debt ceiling debate? What is new here? And why should people believe it's going to work?"

Gibbs repeated some White House ideas that could be part of the proposal and again lashed out at Republicans: "There are things, quite frankly, Matt, that the President's talked about on a number occasions that we just can't seem to get the Republican House of Representatives to deal with. And at some point you get to ask yourself, are they not dealing with these things because, quite frankly, they just don't want to see this economy get better because they want to see an election that might turn out better for them?" Lauer wrapped up the interview without questioning Gibbs's accusation.


Here is a full transcript of the August 16 segment:

7:05AM ET

MATT LAUER: Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is now an adviser to the President's re-election campaign. Robert, good to see you. Good morning.

ROBERT GIBBS: Good morning, Matt. How are you?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Beyond Hope and Change; How Can President Regain Magic of 2008?]

LAUER: I'm doing well, thank you. Let's get something out of the way right off the bat. If it smells like a campaign trip and it looks like a campaign trip and it sounds like a campaign trip, why does the White House say it's not one?

GIBBS: Well look, Matt, I think the President enjoys being out in America, talking to people, particularly in the Midwest, about what they see and what's going on. I don't think the campaign would park the President for two town hall meetings in Illinois if it was a campaign. I'm pretty sure we'll do fine in Illinois.

LAUER: Alright, let's talk about these approval ratings that have just come out. 39% of the American people now approve of the job that President Obama is doing. That's an all-time low. Clearly not the news you want to run for re-election on. What's driving the numbers, in your opinion?

GIBBS: Well, look, I think as the President said in the opening clip, people are frustrated about this economy. I don't think there's any doubt about that. The question, Matt, is what we're going to do about it? And not just what the President's going to do about it, but what we as a country are going to do about it? We've got to get Congress to get back to work and pay attention to helping this economy create jobs again.

And we have to do it without allegiance to one party or one aspect of the Republican Party, like the Tea Party. It's not the Democrat or the Republican United States of America, it's the United States of America. And that's what we have to focus on when Congress gets back.  

LAUER: Yeah, but if – if it's frustration, frustration does not look good on a bumper sticker. Clearly it doesn't look as good as when your last bumper sticker said 'hope and change.' So how does the President get this excitement going again surrounding his re-election bid so that he can keep this office?

GIBBS: Well, look, Matt, I will tell you this. First and foremost, the President is not focused on keeping his job. Most of all, he's focused on creating jobs for the American people. That's what he's excited about and that's what he's focused on.

And I think you heard him talking about laying out some specific ideas when Congress gets back, let's renew tax cuts for payroll tax cuts, let's extend unemployment benefits, let's figure out how to give new tax incentives to businesses that hire new workers. I think those are the kind of things that the President has talked about and that's the kind of thing that Congress needs to act on when it gets back.

Again, I think you watched over the weekend and you watched that Republican debate, the Republicans are going to have to make a choice. Are they going to swear allegiance to the Tea Party or are they going to work on behalf of the United States of America? I think that's a central question when Congress gets back.

LAUER: This idea that the President says he's got this new plan to jump-start the economy when Congress gets back in session. When I first heard him say this over the weekend, I was shaking my head thinking, where was this plan a month ago when we were in the middle of the deficit, you know, debate, the debt ceiling debate? What is new here? And why should people believe it's going to work?

GIBBS: Well, look, I think part of what the President's going to talk about are things that we have going on right now. As I said, the payroll tax cut, and other ideas that he'd like to see renewed for another year that would give this economy confidence. But let's understand there are also things like increased trade, things like entrepreneur and patent reform that will help spur innovation in this economy.

There are things, quite frankly, Matt, that the President's talked about on a number occasions that we just can't seem to get the Republican House of Representatives to deal with. And at some point you get to ask yourself, are they not dealing with these things because, quite frankly, they just don't want to see this economy get better because they want to see an election that might turn out better for them? I think what the American people want is for people to put aside their party labels and instead work together for the United States.

LAUER: Robert Gibbs, top campaign adviser to the President. Robert, good to see you as always. Thank you.

GIBBS: Thanks, Matt.

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