On Wednesday's MSNBC Daily Rundown, minutes after President Obama denied setting a "red line" on Syria's use of chemical weapons, chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd excused the obvious falsehood: "I think it was clear that the President was trying to depersonalize the Syria issue a little bit....to say, you know, 'Stop making this about the President personally, depersonalize this.'" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Following those instructions from Obama, Todd proceeded to blame Republicans for the President trying to distance himself from his own red line: "...there are some House Republicans who are looking at this only view – through the prism of their disagreements and dislike for President Obama rather than the policy itself. And so [the White House is] trying to make the policy argument, 'Forget who's in the seat as commander-in-chief, would the United States believe this was a red line no matter who was president?'"
On NBC, Todd spun Obama contradicting himself as simply having "redefined" the red line. Todd declared: "The President is making the case that this is everybody's problem on Capitol Hill, everybody's problem in the world community."
Here is a transcript of the September 4 exchange:
KRISTEN WELKER: President Obama and the prime minister of Sweden wrapping up a news conference there in Stockholm. President Obama calling on the international community to take action in Syria. That press conference largely dominated by the topic of Syria.
I want to bring in my colleague and friend Chuck Todd, who is traveling with the President in Stockholm. Chuck, at times the President sounded defensive. He said, quote, "My credibility is not on the line, the international community's credibility is on the line." And he dodged a question about what he would do if Congress doesn't give him the green light. What were your takeaways?
CHUCK TODD: Well, Kristen, I think it was clear that the President was trying to depersonalize the Syria issue a little bit. And that red line explanation is one that senior advisors made over the weekend right after, you know, when they held a background briefing about the President's decision on Saturday, when he made that announcement that he was going to Congress. They were asked about this issue of the so-called red line.
It's a question – it came actually in response way back in August 2012. It was during the heat of the campaign, campaign press conference. And I had asked him about Syria, just simply about if he was concerned about the security of the chemical weapons. And then when he talked about it, that's when he indicated if the use of chemical weapons, that that would be a red line for him. And that's when that phrase first sort of entered the current political debate.
But on this issue, it seemed to me it was the White House's intention on Saturday, and the President today, to say, you know, "Stop making this about the President personally, depersonalize this."
And part of that reason, Kristen, is that there are some House Republicans who are looking at this only view – through the prism of their disagreements and dislike for President Obama rather than the policy itself. And so they're trying to make the policy argument, "Forget who's in the seat as commander-in-chief, would the United States believe this was a red line no matter who was president?" And that's been the argument they're making. That's the argument they're making on the Hill. We'll see if it works.