NBC Hypes Cain's Pause on Libya as 'Disqualifying Moment,' Dismisses Obama's 'Lazy' Remark

On Wednesday's NBC Today, co-host Ann Curry asked chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd about Herman Cain's long pause when answering a question about Libya: "How much do you think this new video is expected to add to Herman Cain's current slip already in the polls?" Todd proclaimed: "I think it's close to being the disqualifying moment for his campaign."

In a prior report, correspondent Kelly O'Donnell touted how "Herman Cain is finding out that in politics, silence may not be so golden." However, after playing a clip of Mitt Romney going after Obama for calling America "lazy," O'Donnell dismissed the gaffe: "Now, the President had used the word lazy when he was talking to CEOs, saying that the U.S. should have done more to try to attract business here....But the President's re-election campaign only responded to Romney saying that when he was CEO he was more concerned about out-sourcing than helping the middle class."

Curry introduced O'Donnell's report by declaring that Cain was defending himself from "a new controversy over who he'd like to see in his administration." O'Donnell played a sound bite of Cain making a tongue-in-cheek comment about asking Henry Kissinger to be his Secretary of State. O'Donnell skeptically followed: "Cain recently met Nixon's Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger is now 88 years old. Cain says he was just kidding."

In the segment that followed, Todd actually used the joke to bolster his argument that Cain had disqualified himself from the race: "...this moment on Libya and even this back and forth he had about Henry Kissinger, where you see him say one thing in the video and then this claim that it was a joke a day later. It just adds, and it's a cumulating effect....there are a lot of Republican voters who are going to look at that and say it's disqualifying."

Curry went on to ask Todd about the reason behind Newt Gingrich rising in the polls: "So is he the comeback kid of this race at the moment or is he just extremely lucky?" Todd used the question to portray the whole Republican primary race as chaotic: "Well, look, I think this goes to the fact that this is the wildest Republican primary maybe in a generation or two generations."

Curry followed up: "What is it that Republican voters are looking for that they're not getting, that's contributing to the wildness, as you describe, in this race?" Todd replied: "One is that they want some confrontation at President Obama....Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, they all have one thing in common, is that they seem to not be afraid to say politically incorrect things sometimes to really fire up the Tea Party base."


Here is a full transcript of Curry's November 16 discussion with Todd:

7:14AM ET

ANN CURRY: NBC's political director and chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd is traveling with the President in Canberra, Australia. Chuck, good morning to you.

CHUCK TODD: Good morning.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Pressing Pause; Will Cain's Libya Comments Hurt Campaign?]

CURRY: Let me get to the questions now. How much do you think this new video is expected to add to Herman Cain's current slip already in the polls?

TODD: Well, I think it's close to being the disqualifying moment for his campaign. He was already in a bad place. While he wasn't losing support, he was raising questions among undecided Republican voters, among those that weren't with him. His favorable ratings – unfavorable ratings started to climb. And then this, though, this moment on Libya and even this back and forth he had about Henry Kissinger, where you see him say one thing in the video and then this claim that it was a joke a day later. It just adds, and it's a cumulating effect and that's point we're in, in this race. And so, for Cain it is – it cuts to the core of being a commander in chief at this point. And at this – there are a lot of Republican voters who are going to look at that and say it's disqualifying.

CURRY: Meantime, at the same time, Newt Gingrich, who is now second in some national polls. So is he the comeback kid of this race at the moment or is he just extremely lucky, Chuck?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: The Gingrich Factor; Why Is Newt Rising In The Polls?]

TODD: Well, look, I think this goes to the fact that this is the wildest Republican primary maybe in a generation or two generations. And so, you know, we've probably got three or four more ups and downs on this roller coaster. But for Newt Gingrich we'll see. You know, the first time he popped he didn't survive but a week under the glare of the presidential spotlight. We know it is a very intense glare.

There's a report this morning from Bloomberg News, that this amount of money that he earned advising Freddie Mac wasn't just $300,000, it was up to $1.6 million and it was something that he began literally one year after he left Congress. And so the problem for Gingrich, the message that would work in a Republican primary right now is being an outsider, it's what Rick Perry said yesterday in Iowa, if you're an advisor, not a lobbyist, but an advisor to Freddie Mac, one of the ultimate government insider institutions, it is hard to sit there and make the claim that you're going to be a change agent in Washington.

CURRY: Besides being an outsider, what is it that Republican voters are looking for that they're not getting, that's contributing to the wildness, as you describe, in this race?

TODD: Well, look, it's a couple of things. One is that they want some confrontation at President Obama. It's why that the candidates that have popped, when they've popped, the sort of the not Mitt Romney candidates, whether it was Donald Trump early, even a Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, they all have one thing in common is that they seem to not be afraid to say politically incorrect things sometimes to really fire up the Tea Party base.

So Republicans want some passion. Mitt Romney, that's not who he is. He's trying show a little bit of it. You see him trying to get some of that passion, but it's not there yet, it's not clicking. And that's what Republicans, at least the non-Tea Party Republicans, want. And so if one of these candidates can combine sort of brains, passion and money, they're going to win this nomination. At this point, it doesn't seem like any of the candidates can combine all three. Mitt Romney certainly has the intellectual heft and the money. Can he get the passion? And if anybody else can combine all three, that's the way to surpass him.

CURRY: Alright, Chuck Todd this morning. I'm not sure if you're up late or up early, but whatever it is, thanks so much for joining us this morning there in Australia.

TODD: Tomorrow or yesterday, I don't know. 

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