NBC's Gregory Lobs Softballs to Obama-Backing Google Exec

During an interview with Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt for the Meet the Press web-based feature Press Pass on Sunday, NBC's David Gregory eagerly asked Schmidt about working for President Obama's 2012 campaign: "...what did you discover, what did you learn, what did you actually help to bring to the campaign that changes politics, that changes a politician's ability to say, 'Who is it that I need to reach and how do I reach them?'" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

That teed up Schmidt to brag about his role in the campaign's get-out-the-vote operation: "...the Obama campaign used sort of, essentially data modeling of one kind or another, to try to target voters that might be willing to vote for the President, and they did so extremely well....Since there are more Democratic voters in many places than Republicans, if you get the Democratic voters to come out, you tend to win. This sort of is a new fact."

Later in the discussion, Gregory simply wondered: "How's the President doing?... How do you see it as somebody who's followed him now for a while?" Schmidt gushed: "Well, in our most recent meeting with him, it was very clear to us that he is both relaxed and confident....he has a set of agendas, which include climate change, immigration, gun control, et cetera, obviously economic recovery, and he maintains that there's going to be a great deal of progress with that."

Acting as a parrot for White House talking points, Schmidt explained: "On the science side, which I'm much more involved with, we just try to get the science right. There is a real problem of climate change in this country. There's a real opportunity, for example, for rebuilding America's energy infrastructure."

Gregory followed up: "Does he appear to you to have some real answers on the economy? What do you see out there?" Again Schmidt was given the opportunity to praise the President: "Well, they certainly understand what's going on." Schmidt then proceeded to lecture critics of Obama's handling of the economy:

The economy of America is growing at 1.8% to 2% per year, which, by the way, we're always complaining here in America. Now that I've visited all these countries, trust me, I love to be an American. Imagine going to some of these Asian countries, imagine being in Europe where there's no growth at all in aggregate. I'd much rather be here in the U.S. And let's try to remember that in our political discussions.

Finally, Schmidt seemed to echo the President's claims that ATM's and other such machines were responsible for sluggish job growth: "The core problem in America is that there's not enough employment growth, and the employment growth lags because of automation, because of other impediments to hiring people."


Here is a transcript of the exchange taped for the May 5 edition of Press Pass:

(...)

DAVID GREGORY: As an engineer, as somebody who's a supporter of President Obama, who was involved in the Obama campaign, what did you discover, what did you learn, what did you actually help to bring to the campaign that changes politics, that changes a politician's ability to say, 'Who is it that I need to reach and how do I reach them?'

ERIC SCHMIDT [EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN, GOOGLE]: Well, I helped with the Obama campaign in Chicago, not on the political side, but on the operational side. And the Obama campaign used sort of, essentially data modeling of one kind or another, to try to target voters that might be willing to vote for the President, and they did so extremely well. And they used modern data analytics, which essentially are trying to figure out what kind of a person you are and then having people come talk to you if you're a likely voter. This was done at sort of the new stage.

Since there are more Democratic voters in many places than Republicans, if you get the Democratic voters to come out, you tend to win. This sort of is a new fact. And what was interesting in watching the campaign is that the projections inside the campaign were sort of followed perfectly in the actual outcome. So, it looks to me like we have the ability now, with computers, to understand where people are likely to go, and at least in aggregate, we can make some pretty profound predictions. We can't predict for individual, but we can look for a group.

GREGORY: We will take a quick break here and be back with more with Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt after this.

[COMMERCIAL BREAK]

GREGORY: And we're back with more from Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt on his new book, The New Digital Age. Politics is one thing, governing is another. You work with this administration on scientific ventures and other areas. How's the President doing? The question came up this week about whether he's got the juice still to get some significant things accomplished in the second term. How do you see it as somebody who's followed him now for a while?

SCHMIDT: Well, in our most recent meeting with him, it was very clear to us that he is both relaxed and confident. And again, maybe that's studied or maybe that's just his natural approach. But he has a set of agendas, which include climate change, immigration, gun control, et cetera, obviously economic recovery, and he maintains that there's going to be a great deal of progress with that. And what he's trying to do now is he's trying to negotiate with the politics.

On the science side, which I'm much more involved with, we just try to get the science right. There is a real problem of climate change in this country. There's a real opportunity, for example, for rebuilding America's energy infrastructure. So, the opportunity is go in, cut deals with all the players so that they can make sure that we're getting the proper oil and gas out of the ground, but do so in a reasonably safe way and the proper regulations, grow American jobs, add passive insulation, become energy independent and so forth, while addressing the very, very real problem of climate change.

GREGORY: Does he appear to you to have some real answers on the economy? What do you see out there?

SCHMIDT: Well, they certainly understand what's going on. The economy of America is growing at 1.8% to 2% per year, which, by the way, we're always complaining here in America. Now that I've visited all these countries, trust me, I love to be an American. Imagine going to some of these Asian countries, imagine being in Europe where there's no growth at all in aggregate. I'd much rather be here in the U.S. And let's try to remember that in our political discussions.

The fact of the matter is, the economy's growing somewhere around 2%, and it's likely to do so for pretty a long time. The core problem in America is that there's not enough employment growth, and the employment growth lags because of automation, because of other impediments to hiring people. And there are reasons why those impediments are there and those are political issues involving the powerful incumbents of various groups.

I've said over and over again, and I'll say again right now, that the secret to America's growth is innovation. We have 18 of the top research universities in the world. The quality of these sort of young people coming out of these universities to form companies to invent new futures, whether it's, as we discussed, in oil and gas, whether it's in technology, in innovation, in all sorts of ways. That's how jobs get created. And America is the best in the world. We need to unleash that, we need to solve the various problems that we have that prevent that. We need to export all those products and we're going to grow just great.

(...)

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