Meredith Vieira and Tom Brokaw Question Bush's 'Crediblity'

Tom Brokaw popped up on this morning's Today show to analyze the President's State of the Union address and join Meredith Vieira in casting doubt on Bush's ability to sell his Iraq policy. After Vieira asked how Bush's low approval ratings affected his ability to promote the new surge in troops to Iraq, Brokaw responded: "The question is, now, seven years into his presidency and more than three-and-a-half years into this war does he have any credibility left when he says, 'This is how it will work,' because so much of what he has said about Iraq has not worked the way that he described it."

Then a little later Vieira set up Brokaw on how people outside of the U.S. viewed the policy: "What about with the rest of the world? Where do you think they stand in terms of this troop surge?" To which Brokaw opined: "I think the rest of the world is standing back and saying, 'You got yourself into it, you find a way out of it.' And that's a dilemma. I know that members of the Iraq Study Group are not happy that the President has not embraced any of their diplomatic suggestions that he made, that they made about talking to Iran and talking to Syria again about rebuilding the alliances. This is a White House that it's, in its own bunker at the moment."

Turning to the domestic portion of the speech Brokaw whined: "I talked to members of the administration yesterday and they were feeling very good about their energy plan that they announced last night, getting a new health plan discussion going but this is seven years into the presidency and a lot of people are gonna say, 'Where were you on these issues last year or the year before that?' Because they've been number one priorities for a lot of people."

The following is a more complete transcript of the segment as it occured on the January 24 Today show:

First up, in teasing the Brokaw segment, substitute host David Gregory put a new spin on yesterday's theme of whether the public was still listening to the President:  

David Gregory: "Coming up in just a moment we're gonna talk to Tom Brokaw about the President's State of the Union address. I remember back in the 2004 presidential campaign the President said he wanted to get a lot done before he was quote, 'quacking like a duck.' Well is he still relevant? Is Congress still listening to him? Tom is gonna give us some thoughts on all of that."

...

Meredith Vieira: "You know this is, the President has made this speech seven times now. You've heard all of them. Tone and demeanor last night, how was it different than prior speeches?"

Brokaw: "Well it was a lot different. To use a football metaphor that used to be his homefield. He could walk in there and know he would get cheering, standing, stomping Republican support. Now he's in a different chamber and as he looks on the Republican side he sees a number of people over there, including John Warner the chairman of the Senate Armed Services committee, who is sponsoring a bipartisan resolution against the President's plan to expand the troop levels in Iraq. That, for me, was a huge signal this week, when John Warner came on and said, 'I have real reservations here.'"

Vieira: "That the President was truly in trouble?"

Brokaw: "Right."

Vieira: "You know not only with Congress but also with the public. Approval rating down at about 35 percent at this point. He's asking people to give him a chance but what needs to happen in Iraq for him to pull this off?"

Brokaw: "Well it's not gonna happen tomorrow and that's part of the problem because there is a continuing decline in confidence in his policy. The President, last night, was really speaking over the heads of that chamber and speaking to the American people saying, 'Look gotta give me one more chance.' The question is, now, seven years into his presidency and more than three-and-a-half years into this war does he have any credibility left when he says, 'This is how it will work,' because so much of what he has said about Iraq has not worked the way that he described it."

Vieira: "Do you think that he does have credibility?"

Brokaw: "I think it's in the eye of the beholder. I think he has an ever diminishing number of constituents out there who believe that he has credibility on the war and Iraq. This is gonna, I think the troops are gonna go. I think that there will be a resolution in Congress but he is determined to send them, he has that authority to do it. And General Patraeus, who is as equipped as anyone to run Iraq now from the American side said yesterday this is gonna be a long, difficult slog that we're involved in. It may be three or four months."

Vieira: "What about with the rest of the world? Where do you think they stand in terms of this troop surge?"

Brokaw: "I think the rest of the world is standing back and saying, 'You got yourself into it, you find a way out of it.' And that's a dilemma. I know that members of the Iraq Study Group are not happy that the President has not embraced any of their diplomatic suggestions that he made, that they made about talking to Iran and talking to Syria again about rebuilding the alliances. This is a White House that it's, in its own bunker at the moment. Now they have a lot of confidence. I talked to members of the administration yesterday and they were feeling very good about their energy plan that they announced last night, getting a new health plan discussion going but this is seven years into the presidency and a lot of people are gonna say, 'Where were you on these issues last year or the year before that?' Because they've been number one priorities for a lot of people."

Vieira: "And already a lot of people are looking to 2008. Have you ever seen so many candidates come out so early?"

Brokaw: "No, we had something similar to this in 1988 when Ronald Reagan was coming to the end of his two terms on the Republican side and on the Democratic side. But I think what's changed the equation now is all news on cable all the time and, and then the Web sites that are available to candidates. It's very interesting that Hillary Clinton made her announcement effectively on the Internet. So it's gonna try the patience of the American people for the next year-and-a-half but the stakes are huge and my guess is that they will get engaged."

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.