Teeing up Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz to bash Paul Ryan on Wednesday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer lobbed this softball: "Do you think that Paul Ryan's addition to this ticket is the best thing that could happen to President Obama's chances for re-election?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Lauer used an article from The Washington Post's Dan Balz to set up the question and tout Democratic bravado on Ryan's selection as Mitt Romney's running mate: "He said quote, 'There was no one on Romney's short list of contenders that they,' meaning the Obama campaign, 'wanted to run against more than the chairman of the House Budget Committee Paul Ryan.' Do you agree with that assessment?"
Throughout the rest of the interview, Lauer only asked open-ended questions about political strategy. Though his second question at least provided some challenge: "Paul Ryan has a plan. And whether you agree with it or disagree with it, he's giving voters a choice. What makes you so sure that voters are not going to go with the Romney/Ryan choice?"
In his final question to Schultz, Lauer suggested an Obama campaign approach: "Congresswoman, let me ask you about strategy. Do you think it's a winning strategy for President Obama to make Paul Ryan the focus of this campaign? In other words, to treat this ticket as if it is the Ryan/Romney ticket, as opposed to the Romney/Ryan ticket?"
Lauer's series of questions was in sharp contrast to how fellow co-host Savannah Guthrie grilled Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus moments later on the show.
Here is a full transcript of Lauer's August 15 interview with Schultz:
MATT LAUER: Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is the chair of the Democratic National Committee. Congresswoman, it's good to see you. Good morning.
DEBBIE WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: You too, Matt. Thanks so much.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Decision 2012; Democratic Chief on Obama-Biden Vs. Romney-Ryan]
LAUER: Let me read you something Dan Balz wrote in the Washington Post recently. He said quote, "There was no one on Romney's short list of contenders that they," meaning the Obama campaign, "wanted to run against more than the chairman of the House Budget Committee Paul Ryan." Do you agree with that assessment? Do you think that Paul Ryan's addition to this ticket is the best thing that could happen to President Obama's chances for re-election?
SCHULTZ: Well, I think what Paul Ryan's selection by Mitt Romney to run with him for vice president is, is the worst thing for the middle class and working families. You know, I'm a mom and I'm raising three young kids and I serve on the Budget Committee and had a front row seat for Paul Ryan's approach to slash and burn deficit reduction. A budget that increases taxes on the middle class by an average of $2,000 for a family with children, a middle class family with children, to pay for budget-busting tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires.
LAUER: And with all due respect-
SCHULTZ: Someone who will end Medicare as we know it.
LAUER: And I've been hearing you say this out there over the last several days, and other Democrats as well. But the fact of the matter is, Paul Ryan has a plan. And whether you agree with it or disagree with it, he's giving voters a choice. What makes you so sure that voters are not going to go with the Romney/Ryan choice?
SCHULTZ: Well, I know the voters in Florida. I've represented my community for almost 20 years now, Matt, and I can tell you that the voters that I know, they want to make sure that there's someone in the White House fighting for the middle class and working families. Someone that understands that we need a balanced approach to reducing our deficit and getting our economy turned around.
Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney's approach – and I had a chance during these budget hearings, Matt, to ask Chairman Bernanke, Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Geithner, if we cut too much too fast, and the Ryan plan is a cuts-only approach, slashes Head Start, cuts Pell Grants, gives budget-busting tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires paid for by the middle class, if we take that approach, do we risk slowing or stalling our recovery. And the answer was consistently yes. That's deeply troubling.
LAUER: Let me ask-
SCHULTZ: All while ending Medicare as we know it and ending that guarantee and shredding the safety net for seniors.
LAUER: Let me ask you about strategy-
SCHULTZ: That's the choice that they'll have.
LAUER: Congresswoman, let me ask you about strategy. Do you think it's a winning strategy for President Obama to make Paul Ryan the focus of this campaign? In other words, to treat this ticket as if it is the Ryan/Romney ticket, as opposed to the Romney/Ryan ticket?
SCHULTZ: You know, it's Mitt Romney that made the choice to run with Paul Ryan. He had already embraced what was an extreme budget. And listen, I think Paul Ryan is a nice guy. In fact, Paul Ryan is one of those guys that, you know, when you meet him, he's really nice. And that's why it's so disappointing that his views are so extreme. Romney had already embraced the Ryan budget and then he doubled down on that embrace by choosing him as his running mate.
And so, when it comes to making sure, for me as a mom, that my kids have a good education, that the families that I represent can ensure that their future is one that has investments in Head Start and education and health care, and a bright future so that everybody can live the American dream. Barack Obama and Joe Biden have been fighting for that. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to take us back to a time when we only focus on helping the millionaires and billionaires be successful and hopefully all that largesse would trickle down to the middle class.
LAUER: And we're going to-
SCHULTZ: And it's what crashed the economy. We don't need to go back there.
LAUER: We are going to hear from the other side in a second. But first, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, I thank you for your time this morning.
SCHULTZ: Thanks so much, Matt.