Appearing on Sunday's NBC Today, Meet the Press host David Gregory cheered "a big week for the President's foreign policy" as a "leadership moment" while smearing Republican presidential candidates: "...there has been the betrayal of a lack of understanding in foreign policy in some sections of these debates that is stunning to a lot of people..." [Audio available here]
Gregory fretted: "Simple mistakes about geography or a lack of a really well thought out point of view about America in the rest of the world." He then praised Obama as a leader "who has been tested now repeatedly in that arena," and will now use that experience "as a club against Republicans." [View video after the jump]
Later, on Meet the Press, Gregory invited Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to attack the GOP field: "And do you think that foreign policy from what you've heard will be a disadvantage for this group of Republican candidates for president?"
Gregory continued to push that theme throughout the broadcast. He made this observation to former Democratic Congressman Harold Ford Jr.: "...frankly in these debates there have been moments where Republicans have not come up very strong on foreign policy acumen. It seeds the ground, it appears to me, to a Democratic president to say, 'I'm the foreign policy leader here.'"
Near the end of show, Gregory asked foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell to weigh in. Mitchell seized on the opportunity: "The Republican performance in the debates, all of them, inconsistent, not terribly well-schooled. They have to reach a threshold. It's not the driving issue in this election year, but they have to reach a threshold that they can be commander in chief."
Here is a full transcript of Gregory on Today on October 23:
LESTER HOLT: Now to politics and the new challenges from overseas. There was the death of Moammar Qadhafi and in Iraq all U.S. troops will be home by year's end, two milestones reached in just a matter of days. What will it mean for the President and the Republican candidates? David Gregory is moderator of Meet the Press. David, good morning to you.
DAVID GREGORY: Good morning.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Decision 2012; What Libya & Iraq Mean For Obama]
HOLT: The opposition to the war was central to President Obama's original campaign. How will it affect his legacy, now that that war probably barely registers on the list of issues among American voters?
GREGORY: You know, when you've got the economy in the shape that the economy's now in, I don't think anything can really crowd that out for attention, it has an immediate focus here and this has been a big week for the President's foreign policy. Indeed, a big year. And there are a lot of important questions about Iraq in the future. Does it get bloody all of a sudden? Will there be civil war? There are real concerns. I don't think this is top-of-mind for American voters as we start thinking about the election.
But this is a leadership moment for the President. And at time when government can't do a lot about the economy, it's certainly a time when he's accomplishing a lot, the President is, in foreign policy. At a momentous time for the rest of the world if you look at what's happening, particularly in the Middle East.
HOLT: Right. And Democrats traditionally have been vulnerable to Republican charges of being weak on defense, soft on defense. This is the year that Bin Laden was killed at the orders of the President. Qadhafi – a war in which the U.S. participated in – is now gone. The President has stepped up drone attacks in Pakistan. Taken that together, has he removed a weak point, an Achilles Heel in the minds of Republicans who are trying to unseat him?
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Decision 2012; Obama Under Attack For Iraq Withdrawal]
GREGORY: Oh I – I mean, I don't think there's any question about that. I think the other – there's two interesting pieces about this. First of all, Republicans are becoming more isolationist. Even though they've all piled on here and said that this is a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, it was President Bush who put the country on the glade path out of Iraq by coming up with this agreement in the first place.
Number two, if you look at this Republican debate, and this series of debates, there has been the betrayal of a lack of understanding in foreign policy in some sections of these debates that is stunning to a lot of people, in 2011, after a decade at war. Simple mistakes about geography or a lack of a really well thought out point of view about America in the rest of the world. So these are issues, if you go back to Hillary Clinton's 3:00 a.m. phone call ad against President Obama. Who do you trust? Who can handle that crisis? This is a president who has been tested now repeatedly in that arena, and I think it's something that he'll try to use as a club against Republicans in the debate.
HOLT: Alright, David Gregory. David, thanks so much.
GREGORY: Thanks, Lester.