In a report for Friday's NBC Today, correspondent Peter Alexander touted how Mitt Romney "was briefly interrupted by a heckler" at campaign stop in Virginia and played a clip of the angry malcontent ranting: "Why are you politicizing Libya?!" Alexander then played a clip of President Obama being greeted by cheers and applause in Colorado, proclaiming: "Obama took a firm stand, reminding voters of his power as commander in chief."
Alexander began the report by declaring: "Less than eight weeks til' election day, Romney, who by the way authored a book titled No Apology, is making no apologies for his sharp criticism of the President's foreign policy." At the same time, Alexander suggested Romney was backing down: "Mitt Romney toned down his foreign policy attack on President Obama Thursday, seeking to project strength in more subtle terms, arguing the President's a weak leader."
Alexander promoted Obama firing back at Romney in a Telemundo interview: "I have observed that there's a tendency to shoot before you aim, as I've pointed out." However, the NBC reporter failed to show the question from Telemundo's Jose Diaz-Balart:
Mr. President, Governor Romney today said your foreign policy lacks clarity. Representative Ryan implied that you’re not speaking to the world with force. You said this shouldn't be politicized. But then you kind of reacted to what the governor had said. Some say, were you not in turn politicizing this whole issue as well?
Following Alexander's report, fill-in Today co-host and Meet the Press moderator David Gregory turned to political director Chuck Todd: "Governor Romney goes on attack in the middle of this crisis. Was it political opportunism that redounds to his detriment or was this an appropriate opportunity to really separate himself from the President on foreign policy?"
Content that the media had sufficiently savaged Romney for daring to criticize Obama, Todd replied: "...they can't have the timing issue back, right? This question did they go too soon, did they criticize too soon? There's certainly – is certainly a debate inside, among some Romney supporters about whether it was appropriate or not, but it doesn't matter now."
However, responding to the second part of Gregory's question, Todd acknowledged a possible opening for Romney:
The Romney campaign believes there is an opportunity here....you had a whole bunch of Romney foreign policy advisers who drew a bright line this morning, David, and they said this would not have happened on a President Romney's watch....I think they feel like it's an opportunity, and at this point they do need to flesh this out and that we will – and that they'll get a lot of attention for it when they do it.
Here is a full transcript of Alexander's September 14 report:
DAVID GREGORY: And of course the situation in the Middle East has led to fresh jabs on the presidential campaign trail. NBC's Peter Alexander is here with that part of the story. This is now for the first time becoming a major flashpoint between the President and Governor Romney.
PETER ALEXANDER: A largely dormant campaign issue until now, David. With the ongoing turmoil as we just saw in the Middle East and the political fallout at home, both President Obama and Mitt Romney are really trying to project strength on national security. But less than eight weeks til' election day, Romney, who by the way authored a book titled No Apology, is making no apologies for his sharp criticism of the President's foreign policy.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Decision 2012; Candidates Trade Barbs Over Foreign Policy]
Rallying supporters in Virginia, Mitt Romney toned down his foreign policy attack on President Obama Thursday, seeking to project strength in more subtle terms, arguing the President's a weak leader.
MITT ROMNEY: Sometimes it seems that we're at the mercy of events instead of shaping events. The world needs American leadership. The Middle East needs American leadership.
ALEXANDER: Demonstrating the bitterness on both sides, Romney was briefly interrupted by a heckler.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN [HECKLER]: Why are you politicizing Libya?! Why are you politicizing Libya?!
BARACK OBAMA: Hello, Golden!
[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]
ALEXANDER: Campaigning in Colorado Thursday, President Obama took a firm stand, reminding voters of his power as commander in chief.
BARACK OBAMA: I want people around the world to hear me. To all those who would do us harm, no act of terror will go unpunished. It will not dim the light of the values that we proudly present to the rest of the world.
ALEXANDER: On Tuesday, Romney blasted the administration for a statement from the U.S. embassy in Cairo, that Romney said was akin to an apology showing sympathy for the attackers. Prompting this from the President in a Telemundo interview about his opponent:
OBAMA: I have observed that there's a tendency to shoot before you aim, as I've pointed out.
ALEXANDER: On Thursday, Romney responded on ABC News.
ROMNEY: What I said was exactly the same conclusion the White House reached, which was that the statement was inappropriate. That's why they backed away from it.
ALEXANDER: Romney, who's been trailing in the polls among women, made them a major focus on Thursday, surrounded by women on stage as he hammered away at what he calls the President's economic failures.
ROMNEY: He talks about where he wants to get, but not how to get there. And we've watched him for the last four years, and what he has done has not helped.
ALEXANDER: Meanwhile, the President tried to gently contrast his background from his opponent's.
OBAMA: Let's face it. You know, a mixed kid from Hawaii born to a single mom is not likely to become President of the United States, but in America it can happen.
ALEXANDER: It's not hard to figure out which states these two campaigns believe will decide this election. Romney was in Florida Wednesday, Virginia Thursday, and today he heads from here back to the battleground of Ohio. It's familiar territory for both Romney and the President. David, they've been there a combined 14 times since June, seven for Romney, seven for the President.
GREGORY: Yeah, this is all-important Ohio. Peter Alexander, thank you very much.