NBC's Ann Curry to Obama Advisor: How Has the President 'Inspired Hope'?

Updated [12:15 ET]: More analysis and full transcript added.

In an interview with Obama campaign advisor Robert Gibbs on Wednesday's NBC Today, co-host Ann Curry teed up the President's former press secretary with this softball: "In 2008, the President campaigned on this idea of hope and change....Can you give us one example of what the President has done that has inspired hope or created change in this country?" [Audio available here]

Gibbs proclaimed: "Ann, we'd have to – you'd have to give me about an hour to go through them all." He then argued: "There's thousands of examples of what this president's done to make this country a better place....I think this campaign is going to be a positive future-oriented campaign about who best can get the American people and the middle class to a place of greater genuine security." [Video video after the jump]

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Update:

Curry followed up with another open-ended question to Gibbs: "What specifically does the President – what is his agenda ahead, if he is reelected?" Gibbs declared: "We cannot continue in a country where we're seeing the haves' incomes increase greatly and the rest of us, the middle class, watching our incomes get smaller and smaller, even as people play by the rules and work harder."

At the top of the show, fellow co-host Matt Lauer teased the interview: "A new nationwide poll shows Newt Gingrich with a double-digit lead in the Republican presidential race. How does the White House feel about his surge?" In her first question to Gibbs, Curry wondered: "Who does the Obama campaign consider the more formidable, Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich?" The headline on screen read: "Newt vs. Mitt; How Will White House Battle Gingrich or Romney?" Gibbs concluded: "I don't think voters are going to like, quite frankly, either one of them."

Curry followed with her toughest question Gibbs, about Gingrich calling President Obama, "the president of food stamps": "The fact is, Bob, that this past year more Americans are on or asking for, applying for food stamps than ever before. Why shouldn't Americans hold President Obama accountable?"


Here is a full transcript of the December 7 interview:

7:00AM ET TEASE:

MATT LAUER: Leader of the pack. A new nationwide poll shows Newt Gingrich with a double-digit lead in the Republican presidential race. How does the White House feel about his surge? We'll talk to a top adviser to the President's re-election campaign.

7:06AM ET SEGMENT:

ANN CURRY: Robert Gibbs served as President Obama's first press secretary and now is working on the team that's trying to get the President re-elected. Mr. Gibbs, good morning.

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

CURRY: Doing great. Well, let me ask you then, the first question is who does the Obama campaign consider the more formidable, Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Newt vs. Mitt; How Will White House Battle Gingrich or Romney?]

GIBBS: Well, look, Ann, I think both of these candidates, from a national perspective, have pluses and minuses. I think if you're Mitt Romney, your biggest negative obviously is you've been on both sides of virtually every issue in the public debate. Newt Gingrich, as just was mentioned in your story, really came of politics and prominence at a time in which our politics got much sharper in tone and partisan gridlock set in. And I don't think voters are going to like, quite frankly, either one of them.

CURRY: Well, a lot of people are listening to him right now, as you well know, and he's been criticizing the President on the economy, even last night calling the President, "the president of food stamps." The fact is, Bob, that this past year more Americans are on or asking for, applying for food stamps than ever before. Why shouldn't Americans hold President Obama accountable?

GIBBS: Well, look, this – the President is the President of the United States and he takes responsibility for getting us out of the economic mess that took us years to get into. I think the best way to give people a help up right now is to continue cutting the payroll tax that Republicans don't want to do. And at the end of the year, 160 million families are going to find themselves with a tax bill that's $1,000 greater simply because quite frankly the Republicans, Newt Gingrich and others, simply don't want to see the middle class get a tax cut. They're happy to have millionaires and billionaires continue to get big tax breaks, corporations to get tax breaks, but quite frankly, the question of our time is what are we going to do to help the middle class.

CURRY: Well, on that question, you mentioned the payroll tax. The truth is it's so basic and yet it still has not been passed. If the President cannot get something like payroll tax passed, then how effective can he be in the future in trying to fix this economy, Bob?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Change, Hope & The Middle Class; What's the President's Case For Re-Election?]

GIBBS: Look, Ann, let's be clear. The American people are for it, the President is for it, the President's party is for it. There's a group of people that stand in the way. And in our democracy, we call them Republicans. That's what they're doing right now. Quite frankly, Ann, they just don't want to see the middle class get a tax cut. They're happy to protect the tax breaks for the wealthiest in our society, even if it means hurting our economy and not making sure that our middle class gets a help up. And I think that's very dangerous and it's going to hurt our economy even further unless Republicans decide, quite frankly, it's time to start working with this president and getting something done that's positive for this country.

CURRY: As you know better than most, in 2008, the President campaigned on this idea of hope and change. A lot of people think that this election – people – based on the attacks on his record already going on, that he's going to have to go more negative. Can you give us one example of what the President has done that has inspired hope or created change in this country?

GIBBS: Oh, Ann, we'd have to – you'd have to give me about an hour to go through them all. This president has done great work. Let's take the auto industry, for example. Millions of people would be out of work if Mitt Romney had – if we'd done what Mitt Romney said, which is let's let Detroit and Michigan go bankrupt.

There's thousands of examples of what this president's done to make this country a better place. This campaign, Ann's, going to be about the future, it's not going to be about the past. It's going to be exactly what the President talked about yesterday in Kansas. How do we get this middle class on much firmer ground, how do we make sure that our children have the same opportunities or greater opportunities than our parents and our grandparents had. That's the defining issue of our time and I think this campaign is going to be a positive future-oriented campaign about who best can get the American people and the middle class to a place of greater genuine security.

CURRY: Well, you're asking the questions about how to fix things, but the quest – the point has been made that the President has so far not laid out what he wants to do in his next term. What specifically does the President – what is his agenda ahead, if he is reelected?

GIBBS: Ann, I think people should go and listen to what the President talked about yesterday. We cannot continue in a country where we're seeing the haves' incomes increase greatly and the rest of us, the middle class, watching our incomes get smaller and smaller, even as people play by the rules and work harder. I think income inequality, I think hope and opportunity for the middle class, being able to get ahead, education and investment to make our workforce the greatest in the world, I think that is the defining issue of this campaign and I think it will be the work of this government and this administration for years to come.

CURRY: To be continued.

GIBBS: Thanks, Ann.

CURRY: Robert Gibbs, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

GIBBS: Thank you.

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