White House senior adviser David Plouffe said on Sunday's Meet the Press that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney "has no core" and would say "the sky was green and the grass was blue to win an election."
After Republican strategist Mike Murphy took exception with these comments during the program's roundtable segment, former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw came to Plouffe's defense (video follows with transcript and commentary):
DAVID PLOUFFE, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: Mitt Romney continues to have 75, 80 percent of his party looking somewhere else. And so it'll be interesting to see if he can turn that around.
DAVID GREGORY, HOST: Will he be a diminished candidate if he's the nominee?
MR. PLOUFFE: Well, here's--we'll see what happens in the primary. I'd make, I'd make two points about him. One is he has no core. And, you know, every day almost it seems to be we find another issue. You know, he was supportive of doing things like a cap and trade agreement, now he doesn't think that, you know, climate change is real. He was to the left of Ted Kennedy on gay rights issues, now he wants to amend the Constitution to prevent gay marriage. He was an extremely pro-choice governor, now he believes that life begins at conception and would ban Roe v. Wade. So you, you look at--issue after issue after issue, he's moved all over the place. And I can tell you one thing, working a few steps down from the president, what you need in that office is conviction, you need to have a true compass, and you've got to be willing to make tough calls. And you get the sense with Mitt Romney that, you know, if he thought he--it was good to say the sky was green and the grass was blue to win an election, he'd say it.
During the roundtable segment that followed, Republican strategist Mike Murphy took issue with this:
MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: What surprised me, and not a lot surprises me in politics, was that Mr. Plouffe went for direct personal character assault on Mitt Romney a little while ago. This is a White House staffer saying that the opponent has no core? That, that's harsh character attack politics, and I think he owes Romney a bit of an apology on that. I thought that was a step too far. Fight it out on the issues; there's plenty to disagree about. But that's a lot for, I think, a presidential staffer to say is about somebody. It's not fair.
The problem with this flip-flop politics, everybody's vulnerable in politics of that, because when you get new information, you change. Barack Obama ran and beat Hillary Clinton by being left of the Iraq war, talking about shutting down Guantanamo Bay, promise to the country. Gets elected, doesn't shut it down. Now, I'm not going to attack him for that because the reason he didn't shut it down, he got new information. I think he did the right thing. So you have to be careful. Everybody in politics who's ever looked at new information or done anything is vulnerable to the flip-flop attack. Certainly Romney is. But it, it's unfair to make that into a character assault like I just heard.
Murphy raised a good point. Given the number of key flip-flops Obama has made since Inauguration Day, it is extremely hypocritical for anyone in his administration to point fingers.
That didn't stop David Gregory from replaying Plouffe's comments at the end of the program to allow Brokaw to defend the White House adviser:
MR. GREGORY: We're back. Final moments with our roundtable. If you missed it, David Plouffe was here at the top of the program and broke new ground in how the White House is going to target the opponent in this race, going after Mitt Romney in a pretty aggressive way. Watch.
(Videotape, earlier this morning)
MR. PLOUFFE: He has no core. ... You get the sense with Mitt Romney that, you know, if he thought he, it was good to say the sky was green and the grass is blue to win an election, he'd say it.
MR. GREGORY: Tom, this was pretty aggressive. It's also a sign that the White House would like some of Romney's Republican challengers to be doing more against him in this area.
MR. BROKAW: Yeah. I think he's probably the one that, in the given field, that they fear the most come the fall, because they know that the establishment of the Republican Party thinks he's the best manager, make the best president. I don't quite agree with Mike in terms of it was unfair. I think using the core question probably took it over the edge just a little bit. But the record is there about how he's flopped and we're--we'll hear a lot more from Rick Perry on these very issues in the coming weeks.
Nice job of Gregory not only playing Plouffe's comments again, but also giving Brokaw an opportunity to support them while countering the views of the lone Republican on Sunday's program.
Funny how that works.