Reporting the breaking news on Wednesday's NBC Today that President Obama had named U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to be national security advisor, chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd portrayed Rice as a victim of Republican attacks: "Rice, who had become a Republican punching bag during the whole Benghazi controversy....this is a bit of a defiant move by the President to his Republican critics." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Later on his 9 a.m. ET MSNBC show, The Daily Rundown, while discussing GOP opposition to Rice's promotion – and her nominated replacement as U.N. ambassador, Samantha Power – Todd proclaimed: "And beating up on two women, I think, would be something that the Republican Party brand doesn't need." Lois Romano of Politico chimed in: "They don't need it, but they – they haven't had much, you know, problems beating up on Susan Rice."
Immediately following Rice's December decision to withdraw her name from consideration to be secretary of state, Todd ranted that Rice had become a "victim" of "conservative [media] outlets."
Here is a transcript of Todd's reporting on the June 5 Today:
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: We've got some breaking news out of the White House at this hour, a major shakeup. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice is going to become national security adviser, replacing Tom Donilon, who is resigning. Let's get right to NBC's chief White House correspondent and political director Chuck Todd with details. And Chuck, this move had long been rumored, but this is quite significant. Tell us about it.
CHUCK TODD: Well, it is significant in the timing and how quickly it's coming. There was some thought that Tom Donilon – this has been an open secret that Susan Rice was going to replace Tom Donilon, the national security adviser – the question was likely when would Tom Donilon decide he was going to leave? The fact that this is coming days before this summit that's taking place in China is a little bit surprising on that timing. The announcement's going to come today, the White House, the President's going to do this.
And of course, nominating Susan Rice, who had become a Republican punching bag during the whole Benghazi controversy and the whole idea of the talking points. So you're going to hear a lot of Republicans chiming in about Susan Rice. At the same time, this is not a Senate-confirmed position and this is a bit of a defiant move by the President to his Republican critics.
Here is a transcript of the June 5 Daily Rundown panel discussion:
CHUCK TODD: Well, in just a few hours President Obama will name new members to his national security team. They're actually familiar faces, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice will be his new national security adviser and he will also announce his intention to nominate Samantha Power to replace Rice as U.N. Ambassador.
The Rice news prompted quick reaction from Republicans, including Karl Rove. Who just a few minutes ago said this on another network.
KARL ROVE: This is a defiant gesture by the President, saying to the Republicans, "I know you think she lied, she mislead the country, but who cares?"
TODD: Let's bring in our Wednesday Gaggle. Viviana Hurtado, founder of the Wise Latina Club. Senior political writer for Politico, Lois Romano. And the editor-in-chief of the National Journal's Hotline, Reid Wilson.
Viviana, how did I do in my pronunciation?
VIVIANA HURTADO: You did really well, Chuck.
TODD: Well, I just wanted a cheap compliment from you.
HURTADO: Or I should say Carlos Todd since you're from Miami.
TODD: There you go. Fair enough, fair enough. Lois, let me start with you on this pick. In some ways this was the worst kept secret in Washington, that Susan Rice was headed down here at some point. Tom Donilon made no bones about the fact that he wanted to leave at some point in the summer. It's a stressful job.
LOIS ROMANO: Yeah, and I think – I think they just waited a little bit to see if Benghazi would get off the front pages. But I think ultimately this is going to be a smooth sailing, she doesn't need to get confirmed. There'll be a lot of carping from Republicans. But I think it's a one-day story.
TODD: Reid, any danger that the Samantha Power nomination becomes sort of a proxy that some Senate Republicans try, because that is a Senate confirmation appointment. And that some Republicans try to somehow go after her because they can't go after Susan Rice?
REID WILSON: Well, the first round of confirmations in the second term went relatively smoothly. We've still got a labor nominee to deal with-
TODD: Chuck Hagel.
WILSON: Chuck Hagel was not a-
TODD: And I don't think [Labor Secretary nominee] Tom Perez would say smoothly.
WILSON: But relatively, let's compare that to what's coming up for Samantha Power at the U.N. for maybe a replacement for Eric Holder, sort of a number of these other confirmation hearings are going to get really ugly, I think. It's the great Republican opportunity to focus on an administration that they want to focus on right now.
TODD: But Viviana, I know there was some early reporting that tried to call this a shake-up. Susan Rice and Samantha Power have been very influential in the President's foreign policy for years in many ways, steering them away from the old guard of a Tom Donilon, Hillary Clinton, and Bob Gates. And they were shifting the President in another direction and now they're just in the front seat.
HURTADO: Right, and I mean it's not really a surprise for a lot of us who follow Washington because both Susan Rice and Samantha Power are being rewarded for being there with President Obama, as well as being close allies for a very long time.
And just building on one thing that you said, think about it, as far as going forward, has the Republican response in general been a little bit muted for now? Yeah. But it may be that they are conserving some energy for some of these other bigger fights to come. The last thing the Republicans want is to have any more of that, "They are obstructionists, they're all over the place, I'm going to call somebody a liar this day and another person a liar on another day." That just hurts that brand.
TODD: And beating up on two women, I think, would be something that the Republican Party brand doesn't need.
ROMANO: They don't need it, but they – they haven't had much, you know, problems beating up on Susan Rice.
TODD: True, before. That's true, too.
ROMANO: But I think it'll – I don't think they're going to take on that one right now.