NBC's Gregory Can Only Muster Critique of Obama's 'Passivity' Amid Scandals

With a headline on screen lamenting "Obama's Second-Term Blues" on Wednesday's NBC Today, the worst criticism Meet the Press moderator David Gregory could muster against the President amid growing scandals was this: "And there is a passivity about the President and the White House that even his aides and allies on the outside acknowledge is a problem. Why there has not been a faster, more stringent response."

Noting the IRS, Benghazi, and Associate Press phone records scandals, co-host Savannah Guthrie asked Gregory: "Is there a common narrative that is a critique of the administration here?" Gregory couldn't manage to find one: "Well, I don't know that you can necessarily tie all of them together....I think there is a feeling that there is too much passivity, that the President's too much of a bystander, learning about these things, as he said about the IRS, from news reports."

The only "narrative" Gregory pushed was that of Obama's impotence rather than involvement in such scandals. He noted "practical limitations on the President's power" on holding the IRS accountable and "a disinclination on his [Obama's] part to deal with a lot of the substance on the Benghazi questions..."

Gregory concluded: "...all of these things taken together become at the very least a distraction....in a second term, as one adviser told me, any day you waste is a day you cannot get back when you've got a limited window to get done the business that you want to get done in a second term."

At the top of the exchange, Guthrie wondered which scandal "is the most potentially dangerous to the administration in the long term?" Gregory observed: "I think this IRS story is the most politically toxic....Everybody understands this. This as a symbol of government overreach could be very difficult to overcome."


Here is a full transcript of the May 15 segment:

7:06AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: David Gregory is moderator of Meet the Press. David, good morning to you.

DAVID GREGORY: Good morning, Savannah.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Obama's "Second-Term Blues"?; White House Facing Three Scandals: IRS, AP Probe & Benghazi]

GUTHRIE: So we've got three scandals at a boil right now in Washington. David, in your view, which is the most potentially dangerous to the administration in the long term?

GREGORY: I think this IRS story is the most politically toxic. The headlines that Lisa just referred to, the fact that other groups could have been targeted, we are not necessarily at the end of this by a long shot. And there is a passivity about the President and the White House that even his aides and allies on the outside acknowledge is a problem. Why there has not been a faster, more stringent response. We only saw last night a blistering statement from the President and finally his secretary of the treasury that oversees the IRS, talking about accountability here.

There have been conservative groups who have been complaining about this for over a year. It is time, in the view of many, Republicans and Democrats, for the President, for the White House to lay out a process of accountability, how they go about this. Now what they say on the inside is they're frustrated, too, by the practical limitations on the President's power. He can't, after all, just dismiss his acting head of the IRS without cause because the IRS has insulation from the executive branch precisely out of fear of political interference.

GUTHRIE: Very quickly, to tie that up, I mean, do you think that a high-profile head needs to roll here?

GREGORY: Well, I mean, I think that there's a lot of people who think that that is the case, that somebody's going to have to lose their job at some point once they figure out what the root of the problem was. And again, as Lisa's reporting speaks to in the IG report, what kind of incompetence did you have there? What kind of targeting did you go on that was so lopsided? Aides to the President, again, allies on the outside say this is the most politically toxic. Everybody understands this. This as a symbol of government overreach could be very difficult to overcome.

GUTHRIE: Well then, let me pick up on that, because you have, on the surface at least, three disparate stories. You have the IRS story, you have these lingering questions about the terrorist attack in Benghazi, and then you have this wide sweep of reporters' phone calls by the Justice Department. Is there a common thread? Is there a common narrative that is a critique of the administration here?

GREGORY: Well, I don't know that you can necessarily tie all of them together. I think on the Benghazi business, I think on the IRS, I think there is a feeling that there is too much passivity, that the President's too much of a bystander, learning about these things, as he said about the IRS, from news reports. A disinclination on his part to deal with a lot of the substance on the Benghazi questions because it was felt that there was so much political motivation in some of the attacks. But the reality is that there were facts that were unearthed about this, questions that were left unanswered, and the President seems disinclined to deal with them.

But all of these things taken together become at the very least a distraction. And that word gets thrown around a lot here. But in a second term, as one adviser told me, any day you waste is a day you cannot get back when you've got a limited window to get done the business that you want to get done in a second term.

GUTHRIE: Alright, David Gregory, moderator of Meet the Press in Washington, thank you very much.

GREGORY: Thanks, Savannah.

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