NBC: Is Criticism of Obama Vacation 'Just Politics As Usual'?

On Monday's NBC Today, fill-in co-host Tamron Hall asked incoming Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd if all the criticism of President Obama's vacation in Martha's Vineyard amid numerous crises was "just politics as usual." Todd replied: "Yes, it's politics as usual, but in this case, this is optics, this was stuff they should have seen coming. This is not new to them." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Todd noted "backtracking" from former Obama adviser David Axelrod: "You know what? Maybe Democrats are too hard on President Bush when they used to beat him up for his vacations in Crawford." Todd concluded that Obama "wanted his downtime" and "guards his downtime," "But, you know what? It's something they should have been more aware of."

In addition to political analysis, Hall teed up Todd to promote his new role hosting Meet the Press: "What do you look forward to, especially when you look at some of the polling numbers, the unhappiness the American people have with Congress, what are you looking forward to bringing to the conversation?"

Todd, replacing David Gregory, described his vision for the Sunday show:

Look, I think the job of all of us is – particularly in political reporting – is to demystify Washington for the American public but then also try to translate the American public's frustration for out-of-touch Washington people. So I think that, that's part of the challenge. I think that's part of when things are going well in the political journalism world, it's because we're playing that role of basically being the translator, being the interpreter between America and Washington. And hopefully I can do my best to – to get that going.

As NewsBusters' Geoffrey Dickens pointed out, Todd has a long history of liberal outbursts during his tenure at NBC.


Here is a full transcript of the August 25 Today segment:

7:14 AM ET

TAMRON HALL: Chuck Todd is NBC's political director, chief White House correspondent, and now the new moderator of Meet the Press. Chuck, good morning. Good to see you.

CHUCK TODD: Good morning.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Back In the Oval Office; President Returns From Vacation Amid New Crises]

HALL: Let's start with what Keir [Simmons] reported there. British authorities believe they've identified the ISIS militant responsible for James Foley's death. Over the past several days we've seen the administration indicate that it's open to U.S. air strikes. Does it appear the President is leaning toward expanding those U.S. strikes?

TODD: Well, they've made the decision to expand the strikes, the question now is where, what kind of targeting, and what kind of legal authority. The tricky business here now for the administration is he had the authority to deal with air strikes in Iraq. You have that long authority that they were given back in 2001 and 2002 for both going after Al Qaeda and Iraq.

When you cross the border into Syria, there are larger legal questions. Do they have to go to Congress? What exactly – do they need the permission of the Syrian government? They had the permission of the Iraqi government to come in. Do they need the permission of the Syrian government. So that part of it is tricky. So they're trying to decide, these targets in Syria, how important are they right now and should it trigger a debate in Congress?

HALL: To add to what you refer to as the trickiness, of course, is the optics. We both know that very well. The President criticized, some saying he seemed disengaged while on his vacation. He returned to the White House last night. As we know, James Cameron [sic] ended his vacation early, the British prime minister-

TODD: David Cameron.

HALL: David Cameron, excuse me. Does the optics of this matter or is it just politics as usual in that town?

TODD: Well, look, yes, it's politics as usual, but in this case, this is optics, this was stuff they should have seen coming. This is not new to them. Now you all of a sudden have backtracking. We have David Axelrod, the longtime adviser to the President going, "You know what? Maybe Democrats are too hard on President Bush when they used to beat him up for his vacations in Crawford."

But the fact is the President was – he wanted his downtime. He's very – he guards his downtime. He wishes he could keep it. You know, it's a job that does follow him 24/7. So I think it is somewhat politics. But, you know what? It's something they should have been more aware of.

HALL: And jobs that follow you 24/7, speaking of, being the moderator of Meet the Press. It never ends. And the big announcement came down that you have been tapped for this new gig. You start officially September 7th.

TODD: September 7th. So I've got a little more time to-

HALL: What do you look forward to, especially when you look at some of the polling numbers, the unhappiness the American people have with Congress, what are you looking forward to bringing to the conversation?

TODD: Look, I think the job of all of us is – particularly in political reporting – is to demystify Washington for the American public but then also try to translate the American public's frustration for out-of-touch Washington people. So I think that, that's part of the challenge. I think that's part of when things are going well in the political journalism world, it's because we're playing that role of basically being the translator, being the interpreter between America and Washington. And hopefully I can do my best to – to get that going.

HALL: Certainly you will. Congratulations, Chuck.

TODD: Thank you, Tamron.

HALL: Thank you very much.

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