NBC on DNC: 'Life of the Party' Bill Clinton 'Owned the Room,' Speech Was 'Height of Political Stagecraft'

On Thursday, the hosts of NBC's Today could barely contain their glee over former President Bill Clinton addressing the Democratic National Convention, with Savannah Guthrie proclaiming: "Life of the party. Former President Bill Clinton delivers a powerful and partisan speech....blasting Republicans, and in the throes of a bad economy, making the case for four more years." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Moments later, Matt Lauer gushed that President Obama had "a really tough act to follow after what was an enthusiastic and powerful endorsement" from Clinton. In a later report, Meet the Press host David Gregory joined in the Clinton lovefest with his own rave review: "Bill Clinton simply owned the room here, stayed longer than he was supposed to, but nobody seemed to mind....it was an appearance that was the height of political stagecraft."

Gregory excitedly added: "Here was one of the party's biggest heros leveraging his enormous popularity to vouch for President Obama..." And observed that Clinton "was happier than ever in the spotlight."

Eagerly touting Clinton's attacks on the GOP ticket, Gregory helpfully teed up a string of sound bites:

He talked about the hatred that Republicans have for this president....President Clinton mocking the Republican pitch for change....Criticizing Governor Romney's promise to cut taxes, financial regulations, and government spending for the poor....taking on Paul Ryan for attacking the President's Medicare cut, while incorporating that same cut in his own budget.

Gregory didn't bother to fact check any of Clinton's claims, but promoted the pitch for Obama: "Clinton argued the President needs more time....And promised millions watching on television that he believed with all his heart Americans would feel an economic turn around in an Obama second term."

Prior to Gregory's report, Guthrie shared details of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton watching her husband's DNC speech while on a trip to Southeast Asia:

[She] did not see the speech live, but later watched it from the ambassador's residence there on a computer via Sling Box. And I was told, and you can see the picture of her expression there, that she may not have blinked during the entire speech. She didn't know President Obama was coming out and nearly jumped out of her chair, I'm told, when she saw it.


Here is a full transcript of Gregory's August 6 report:

7:04AM ET

GUTHRIE: We're going to begin, though, with that speech by former President Bill Clinton here at the Democratic National Convention. NBC's David Gregory is moderator of Meet the Press. David, good morning to you.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Today at the Democratic National Convention; Bill Clinton Makes the Case for 2nd Obama Term]

DAVID GREGORY: Good morning, Savannah. Well you talked about it, Bill Clinton simply owned the room here, stayed longer than he was supposed to, but nobody seemed to mind. This was a speech that was a pitch to swing voters. He makes a positive reference to President Bush about aid to Africa, but it was also brutally partisan. He talked about the hatred that Republicans have for this president. Above all, it was an appearance that was the height of political stagecraft. This was the moment, a surprise showing by the President and a political embrace for the predecessor that was designed to speak volumes. Here was one of the party's biggest heros leveraging his enormous popularity to vouch for President Obama, a candidate he once opposed, a President with whom he's had a distant relationship.

BILL CLINTON: I want to nominate a man who's cool on the outside, but who burns for America on the inside.

GREGORY: President Clinton mocking the Republican pitch for change.

CLINTON: We left him a total mess. He hasn't cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in.

GREGORY: Criticizing Governor Romney's promise to cut taxes, financial regulations, and government spending for the poor.

CLINTON: As another president once said, "There they go again."

GREGORY: Clinton, his voice weaker than in years past, was nevertheless happier than ever in the spotlight, covering the broad sweep of campaign debates and speaking longer than his allotted 28 minutes. He ad-libbed often, here taking on Paul Ryan for attacking the President's Medicare cut, while incorporating that same cut in his own budget.

CLINTON: You got to give him one thing, it takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did.

GREGORY: And with the First Lady looking on, he hailed the President for embracing his rivals.

CLINTON: Heck, he even appointed Hillary.

GREGORY: Through it all, the economy was the focus. Clinton argued the President needs more time.

CLINTON: President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did. No one could have fully repaired all the damage that he found in just four years.

GREGORY: And promised millions watching on television that he believed with all his heart Americans would feel an economic turn around in an Obama second term.

CLINTON: If you want a winner-take-all, you're-on-your-own society, you should support the Republican ticket. But if you want a country of shared opportunities and shared responsibility, a we're-all-in-this-together society, you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

GREGORY: And so tonight it is President Obama's moment. Aides say that he is going to lay out some of the pillars of a second term, try to become a little bit more specific. Republicans I spoke to after the Clinton speech said, "Look, this is a president who still has to answer for poverty in the country, historic job losses." And as you know, Savannah, President Obama will deliver that address now here in the hall because of the threat of severe weather. They don't want to do it in the stadium anymore.

GUTHRIE: Alright, NBC's David Gregory, thank you.

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