NBC's Lauer: Protesters Mad at Obama for Not 'Taking On' Wall Street 'Fat Cats'

On Tuesday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer interviewed Obama advisor David Plouffe and asked about the frustration of the left-wing Occupy Wall Street protesters: "These people are out there and they're angry at Wall Street, the so-called fat cats....They're also angry at Democrats and the administration for not taking them on and doing anything about it."

Lauer then worried about the potential negative political impact:

Do Democrats stand to take the biggest hit in the wake of these protests?...those young people out on the streets of New York and other places, David, they don't think enough has been done and those are the same people who put Barack Obama into the White House three years ago. So are you worried that – they're not going to vote Republican – but are you worried they're going to stay home in 2012?

On CBS's Early Show, co-host Erica Hill also interviewed Plouffe and similarly wondered: "There's a lot of attention being paid these days to the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement, which, as you know, has now moved across the country....Some of that frustration, though, lies squarely with the President himself, his approval numbers on the decline. Is this something that the President wants to put himself squarely behind as a movement?"

Earlier in his discussion with Plouffe, Lauer framed Obama's jobs bill as a way to bash the GOP: "So is this about creating jobs or is this about the President not minding at all the opportunity to force Republicans, once again, to stand up publicly a year out from an election and side with the wealthiest Americans?"

In contrast to that softball, Hill challenged Plouffe: "Congressman Paul Ryan, though, has accused the President of class warfare, saying that by criticizing the rich, this is actually fanning the flames of class warfare." She also pressed Plouffe on whether the President would be "willing to compromise" on the jobs bill.


Here is a full transcript of Lauer's October 11 interview with Plouffe:

7:05AM ET

MATT LAUER: David Plouffe is a senior adviser to President Obama. David, good to see you, good morning.

DAVID PLOUFFE: Good morning, Matt.

LAUER: Let's start with some numbers coming out of the latest NBC News/Marist poll, this was taken just in the last couple of days. In New Hampshire, the President's approval rating is 38%. 53% of people disapprove of the job he's doing. You look in Iowa, those numbers are 42 and 47%. Considering these are the people who probably know the President best because he spent so much time in those two states, how worried are you about those numbers?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Decision 2012; Why is President Slipping in New Poll?]

PLOUFFE: Well, first of all, there's a long time until the election. What the President's focused on right now is not the next election but what we need to do to create jobs for the middle class right now. And that's the debate we're going to have in Washington.

But listen, we've got a tough economy, and so obviously people out there are struggling but the election next year will be a choice between the President's policy, which is about rebuilding security for the middle class, versus Republican policies, and you'll see that on the stage tonight in the Republican debate in New Hampshire. These basically would build a bridge back to the recession, let Wall Street write their own rules, cut taxes for the wealthiest, let polluters, you know, have their way with our air and water. That's not going to grow jobs now or in the long-term. And so next year it'll be a choice.

LAUER: Alright, let's talk about – well, let's talk about jobs. The bill that's before the Senate, they're going to take it up this week, $447 billion, and a key provision that was recently added by Senate Democrats is causing a problem, this is the 5.6% surtax on the wealthiest Americans. Is there any way that bill makes it out of the Senate with that provision attached to it?    

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Jobs, Jobs, Jobs; Will Senate Pass President's Jobs Bill?]

PLOUFFE: Well, this jobs bill should make it out of the Senate, because the question in front of us-

LAUER: But will it, with that provision?

PLOUFFE: Well, listen, I think – I – for sure we're going to get, you know, the vast majority of Democratic votes tonight. Hopefully the Republicans in the Senate will look out around the country and understand that is economy's far too weak. So the question is, are we going to put teachers back on the job? Are we going to put construction workers back on the job? Are we going to give a tax cut to every middle class family and small businesses to help this economy get a jump-start and – go ahead.

LAUER: You're talking ideology here and I'm asking you reality. Here's how Paul Ryan, the Budget Committee Chairman in the House puts it, he says, "The President is running around the country campaigning on a bill he knows won't pass. He can't even get it out of the Senate." So is this about creating jobs or is this about the President not minding at all the opportunity to force Republicans, once again, to stand up publicly a year out from an election and side with the wealthiest Americans?

PLOUFFE: Well, listen, if the Republican Congress would do their job there wouldn't be a political issue. And that's our argument, is we have to act and we have to act right now and none of the ideas you're going to see tonight in New Hampshire in the Republican debate, or most Republicans here in Congress, would do anything to create jobs in the short-term. And we've got too many people out of work, so we need to focus on not just in the short-term, but in the long-term, building an economy that's based on long-term American values, which is hard work and responsibility pays off and Wall Street and main street play by the same set of rules.

LAUER: Well, let's talk about Wall Street. I'm interested to get take on this. We've got the Occupy Wall Street movement that is either growing or morphing, depending on your point of view. These people are out there and they're angry at Wall Street, the so-called fat cats. But you know what, David? They're also angry at Democrats and the administration for not taking them on and doing anything about it. Do Democrats stand to take the biggest hit in the wake of these protests?

PLOUFFE: Well, I think what you're seeing in New York and in other cities around the country is mirrored in what you're seeing in just people's kitchens and living rooms all across the country, which is a deep frustration about the unfairness in our economy. And you know, the President passed Wall Street reform and what that means is we're going to have a more transparent financial system, taxpayers will no longer be on the hook to bail out large banks, and you're going to see consumers protected in terms of credit card rates and mortgage rates and hidden fees.

LAUER: Yeah, but those young people out on the streets of New York and other places, David, they don't think enough has been done and those are the same people who put Barack Obama into the White House three years ago. So are you worried that – they're not going to vote Republican – but are you worried they're going to stay home in 2012?

PLOUFFE: We're not. We're obviously going to have to work hard to get the people out we need to win. But I do think the Wall Street reform's going to be a fundamental choice here in Washington and in the campaign next year, because all of the major Republican presidential candidates, many Republicans in Congress, want to unwind Wall Street reform. And let's remember, the economic crisis was caused for a lot of reasons but one fundamental reason was obviously Wall Street was allowed to write too many of its own rules. So what the Republicans are saying is, 'Let's go back to those policies that led to the great recession.' What the President is saying is we have to hold Wall Street accountable, make it more transparent, and protect consumers. So for people who are concerned about, you know, our financial system, I think there's going to be a clear difference in this election next year.

LAUER: David Plouffe, coming to us from the White House this morning. David, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.

PLOUFFE: Thanks, Matt.


Here is a full transcript of Hill's interview with Plouffe:

7:05AM ET

ERICA HILL: And joining us now from the White House is David Plouffe, senior advisor to President Obama. Good to have you with us this morning.

DAVID PLOUFFE, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR: Good morning, Erica.

[CBS News Graphic: "Presidential Push: Obama's Jobs Plan Put To Test"]

HILL: Give us an idea- as we learn more about this bill and its support, or lack thereof in some areas, where will the President be willing to compromise?

PLOUFFE: Well, first of all, the American Jobs Act, which will be voted on in the Senate today, is what the economy needs right now, putting teachers back to work, construction workers back to work, tax cuts for small businesses and the middle class- it's what we need to do. And obviously, what the President said in his press conference last week is if we can't get enough people to vote for it tonight, we're going to keep at it. We're going to keep voting on teachers back in the classrooms, rebuilding our schools, our roads, our bridges. So the question for Washington really isn't an economy that's far too weak, too many people out of work- what are we going to do? And the President's plan is something that would help the economy right now, help the middle class right now. So, you know, we're going to put as much pressure as we can today on senators in both parties to vote for this. But, obviously, this is just the first chapter in what's going to be an effort over the next couple of months to get as much done for the economy right now.

HILL: So this is the first chapter (unintelligible). There's been talk, as Nancy [Cordes] laid out for us, about breaking the bill down. But can you give me a specific of one area, perhaps, where the President has said- yes, I'm willing to, maybe, have a little bit of wiggle room with that particular area?

PLOUFFE: Well, listen, I think all of these are mainstream proposals that, in a normal political environment, would be supported. So, you know, letting tax cuts go up (sic) for everyone in the country next year- I don't think is something, ultimately, Washington is going to allow to happen. We need to get that done. Tax cuts for small businesses, teachers back on the job, helping our veterans with a tax credit, so when they come back from Afghanistan and Iraq, they're able to work. So I think a lot of these are mainstream proposals, they ought to enjoy support, and at the end of the day, I think people here in Washington don't want to go home at the end of the session and say, you know what? I didn't do anything to help the economy, and in the short-term, didn't do anything to help the middle class. That's the central challenge facing the country, and it's the central challenge facing our leaders. So we're eager to work with Congress, to make sure we can put as many people back to work right away, as part of a longer-term economic strategy.

HILL: There's a lot of attention being paid these days to the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement, which, as you know, has now moved across the country. The President saying last week- and I'm quoting here- that he feels this expresses the frustration of the American people. Some of that frustration, though, lies squarely with the President himself- his approval numbers on the decline. Is this something that the President wants to put himself squarely behind as a movement?

PLOUFFE: Well, what the President said last week is, you know, the frustration you're seeing in these protests is frustration that's shared in living rooms and kitchens all across America. And I'll give you one example of a defining debate we're going to have, which is one of the reasons we went into the worst recession we've had since the Great Depression- is Wall Street was able to write too many of its own rules. The President led an effort to pass Wall Street reforms. So that means taxpayers won't be on the hook for a bailout any more, will be more transparent, hidden fees on things like mortgages and credit cards- consumers will be protected. And all of the Republican presidential candidates on that stage tonight in New Hampshire, and most Republicans here in Congress want to repeal that law.

[CBS News Graphic: "Protest Politics: Will Dems Wrap Arms Around Protest Movement?"]

So, an economic strategy that says let's let Wall Street write its own rules, let's not protect consumers in the middle class- so for those people who are concerned about our financial system and the inequities in our economy- I think the President stands squarely with the middle class, in terms of trying to protect consumers, and make sure what happened doesn't happen again.

HILL: Congressman Paul Ryan, though, has accused the President of class warfare, saying that by criticizing the rich, this is actually fanning the flames of class warfare.

PLOUFFE: Absolutely not. All the President is trying to is make sure we have an economy where everybody plays by the same rules, where everybody does their fair share, where hard work and responsibility are rewarded. So, we have choices to make as a country. If we want to invest in things like education; if we want to give tax cuts to the middle class; if we want to rebuild our infrastructure, so we can compete and win in the long-term; then we'll have to find a way to pay for it, and the President has shown himself willing to do a lot of cutting in spending, which he's done. But it's not fair that millionaires and billionaires pay less in taxes than the middle class does, and that's something to needs to change. So, you know, what this is, is doing the right thing for our economy, and making sure that we make decisions that are fair, and so that everybody plays by the same set of rules.

HILL: David Plouffe, good to have you with us this morning. Thank you.

PLOUFFE: Thanks, Erica.

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