NBC Grills Ryan on Romney's Qualifications; Invites Biden to Slam Romney on Same Topic

At the end of an interview with vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan on Tuesday's NBC Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie parroted Democratic attacks on Mitt Romney's foreign policy credentials: "John Kerry said, 'this is the most inexperienced foreign policy ticket to run in decades,' talking about you and Governor Romney. What specific national security experience qualifies Governor Romney to be commander in chief?"

At the top of an interview with Joe Biden only seconds later, fellow co-host Matt Lauer teed up the Vice President to slam Romney on the same issue: "[I] started by asking him if he thought Governor Romney is a qualified candidate when it comes to his vision and understanding of foreign policy." Not surprisingly, Biden declared: "No, he's not."

In contrast, Guthrie began her interview with Ryan by suggesting Romney's performance in the third debate was somehow deceptive: "...this is somebody who has launched scathing criticisms on issues like Libya, on Iran....And yet, we heard none of that kind of talk tonight. Is this somewhat misleading? Is Governor Romney trying to portray someone who's different than what he said in the past?"

Compare that to a couple of the open-ended questions Lauer put to Biden:

> If you compare Mitt Romney today to Barack Obama at this time four years ago, when he was running against John McCain and his extensive military experience and foreign policy experience, does Mitt Romney have the same level of expertise in foreign policy that Barack Obama did in 2008?

> I'll go back to the point you made a second ago about how Governor Romney seemed to agree with many of the positions that the administration has taken over these last three and a half, four years. In your opinion, what's the most significant difference, in terms of foreign policy, between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama?

On the first question, Biden asserted that Romney's foreign policy experience was "not even close" to Obama's foreign policy experience four years ago.

On the second question, Biden glossed over Romney's criticism of the President on a host of foreign crises, claiming the Governor, "agreed with everything we've done on Iran....with everything we've done on Syria....with everything we've done in Libya."

Rather than follow up on those declarations, Lauer wrapped up the exchange by offering Biden a chance to "speak to those disappointed voters and tell them why they should stay the course" with Obama.

The toughest question Lauer put to Biden was on Obama's falling poll numbers on his handling of foreign policy:

I think if you were to talk to people six months ago they would have said that foreign policy was something that was firmly in the pocket of President Obama. He could say we killed Osama Bin Laden, we're out of Iraq, we're winding down in Afghanistan, end of story. And yet, if you look at some recent polls, Mr. Vice President, they are tightening considerably. People seem to trust Mitt Romney on foreign policy, as a commander in chief, and in his dealings of how he would deal with terrorism. Why do you think that's happening?

Biden simply denied reality: "I don't think it's happening, number one. I don't believe that."

The double standard on display in the back-to-back interviews mirrored the bias shown in similar back-to-back segments following the second debate.


Here are portions of Guthrie's October 23 interview with Ryan:

7:06AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Well, following the debate, I spoke with Governor Romney's running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan, and I began by asking him if Romney, who's known for his stinging critiques of the President's foreign policy, made a strategic decision to strike a more moderate tone in the debate.

PAUL RYAN: You know what we saw with this debate? We saw that Mitt Romney is ready to be a great president. We saw a man with a command of the facts, with the kind of temperament and demeanor that makes for a great president. We saw a man with a vision for foreign policy. There are areas where we agree, but there are clearly areas where we disagree, and I think we fleshed that out pretty well in this debate.

GUTHRIE: But Congressman, this is somebody who has launched scathing criticisms on issues like Libya, on Iran. He's come right out and said, "Under my administration, Iran wouldn't get a nuclear bomb. If you stick with President Obama, he will." And yet, we heard none of that kind of talk tonight. Is this somewhat misleading? Is Governor Romney trying to portray someone who's different than what he said in the past?

RYAN: Oh, I wouldn't say that. No, not in the least, Savannah. Look, on Iran, we're four years closer to a nuclear weapon. Mitt Romney spelled that out very clearly. The sanctions that are in place now are only in place because of bipartisan opposition to the President's unwillingness to put these sanctions in place in the first place. Look, what we see was a huge difference in defense. We have a trillion dollars in defense cuts coming down the pike which will hollow out our military, we don't agree with that.

(...)

GUTHRIE: John Kerry said, "this is the most inexperienced foreign policy ticket to run in decades," talking about you and Governor Romney. What specific national security experience qualifies Governor Romney to be commander in chief?

RYAN: We have had fantastic governors who have made very effective foreign policy presidents. Just look back to Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. What matters is policy, doctrine. Mitt Romney did a fantastic job of spelling out his foreign policy doctrine. I know it sounds like a cliche, but peace through strength is a doctrine. Look, I've been in Congress 14 years. I've been running the budget committee for my party six years. 20% of our budget is national security, it's  homeland security, it's security. That makes a big difference. Voting to send men and women to war, as I've done on occasions, that gives you experience. Mitt Romney has the demeanor, the temperament, the principles, the skills to be a great foreign policy president.

Here are portions of Lauer's interview with Biden:

7:11AM ET

MATT LAUER: Now for the view from the other side. I spoke with Vice President Joe Biden last night after the debate and started by asking him if he thought Governor Romney is a qualified candidate when it comes to his vision and understanding of foreign policy.

JOE BIDEN: No, he's not. He's a good man, he's a decent man, but he demonstrated an overwhelming lack of understanding in the international community. He demonstrated a lack of understanding in the military. And – and I was amazed that even just a couple of weeks ago when I debated Congressman Ryan, Congressman Ryan was laying out the foreign policy with regard to what he and what Governor Romney believed, the overwhelming criticism our positions in Syria, Iraq, Iran, across the board. And tonight, Governor Romney seemed to be rushing to agree with everything the President had done already.

LAUER: If you compare Mitt Romney today to Barack Obama at this time four years ago, when he was running against John McCain and his extensive military experience and foreign policy experience, does Mitt Romney have the same level of expertise in foreign policy that Barack Obama did in 2008?

BIDEN: Not even close. Barack Obama – I was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. He was on my foreign relations – our Foreign Relations Committee for four years. He demonstrated a grasp and a gravity. He had a worldview of where America's position should be, how we should interact in the world, how we needed to rebuild alliances, et cetera, et cetera. He's acted on those from the time he came in. Governor Romney didn't demonstrate any breadth, any breadth of understanding, and – and it – it was a little bit, quite frankly, surprising.

(...)

LAUER: You think it's fair to say that in states like where you are, in Ohio and Florida and Virginia, this is going to boil down, in some ways, to disappointed voters, voters who voted for Barack Obama back in 2008. I want you to speak to those disappointed voters and tell them why they should stay the course.

BIDEN: Well, to the disappointed voters, and there are disappointed voters. This will be a choice. I've been convinced of that from the beginning. People are going to, and some reluctant to make the choice, because they – because things haven't turned out for them yet, but they're gonna look and say, "Is Governor Romney gonna better my circumstance, or am I better staying on this path? And I believe they're gonna make a choice, and they're gonna pick the – the Obama/Biden ticket, as opposed to the Romney/Ryan ticket.

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