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NBC Admits Obama Mortgage Plan Won't Work, But Cheers It as Good Politics

At the top of Monday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer touted a new plan to address the housing crisis: "After a series of foreign policy victories, President Obama is hitting the road to sell his plan to help turn around the struggling economy and today the focus is on the housing market." Lauer later wondered to chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd if the plan would, "help politically?"

Todd declared: "Well, it could....emphasize the fact that they can't get anything done through Congress, right? That Republicans won't do anything....Mitt Romney said of the housing crisis, 'You know what? We're not allowing foreclosures to happen fast enough.' So this is a two-fer, as far as the White House is concerned. They feel like they can talk about housing but also make the Republicans look like they're out of touch on that."

However, Lauer began his discussion with Todd by pointing out criticism of the plan: "...it says that it will help make it easier for them to refinance those mortgages. Already critics say it won't work." Todd acknowledged a major flaw: "...it's similar to the plan the President unveiled over two years ago....The problem is, with the plan initially and with this one, is Matt, you cannot force the banks to do this."

Turning to the political impact, Lauer dismissed that fact: "Even though you can't force the banks to do it, if you're sitting at home and you're underwater in your mortgage and you hear it coming out of the President's mouth and you're in a state like Nevada or Arizona or California or Florida, and those aren't accidental states."

Near the end of the segment, Lauer asked about GOP criticism of the Obama administration withdrawing all U.S. troops from Iraq at the end of the year: "Republicans are criticizing this, saying it's more about politics than sound military strategy. How exposed is the President on this?" Continuing to push politics over substance, Todd argued: "I don't think he's very exposed at all because public opinion is with him....They would like to see these troops brought home."

Todd pushed White House talking points on the issue: "You know, you talk to the Obama campaign and then say okay, Mitt Romney criticized the President for doing this, so does that mean a President Romney wants to send more troops back to Iraq? And they think politically that that's a more untenable position to have at this point."

Here is a full transcript of the October 24 exchange:

7:01AM ET TEASE:

MATT LAUER: Also ahead, President Obama is back on the road today, he'll unveil a new plan to help jumpstart the struggling housing market. We're going to tell you what that is and why some critics are already claiming it simply won't work.

7:08AM ET SEGMENT:

LAUER: Let's turn to politics now. After a series of foreign policy victories, President Obama is hitting the road to sell his plan to help turn around the struggling economy and today the focus is on the housing market. Chuck Todd is NBC's political director and of course chief White House correspondent. Chuck, good morning to you.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Safe at Home; President Unveils New Plan to Help Homeowners]

CHUCK TODD: Good morning, Matt.

LAUER: The plan the President's going to unveil today is aimed at people who are struggling with their mortgages, in particular people who are underwater. And it'll – it says that it will help make it easier for them to refinance those mortgages. Already critics say it won't work. What are you hearing about the plan?

TODD: Well, it's a similar – it's similar to the plan the President unveiled over two years ago and he did so on another west coast swing when he did it. At its – on its face, this plan that the President's going to unveil might help another 1 million folks whose mortgages are so-called "underwater." The problem is, with the plan initially and with this one, is Matt, you cannot force the banks to do this. While they can raise the threshold and say, okay, even if your house – even if you owe more than your house is worth, even if you owe 150% more than your house is worth, we cannot force the banks to refinance and that's been the problem with this program.

LAUER: Even though you can't force the banks to do it, if you're sitting at home and you're underwater in your mortgage and you hear it coming out of the President's mouth and you're in a state like Nevada or Arizona or California or Florida, and those aren't accidental states.

TODD: No, they're not.

LAUER: Is this going to help politically?

TODD: Well, it could and they would like to do two things with the rolling out of this plan, one, emphasize the fact that they can't get anything done through Congress, right? That Republicans won't do anything so the President is forced to act on his own, this is both pivoting from the jobs act. The second thing is, last week, the Republican front-runner Mitt Romney said of the housing crisis, "You know what? We're not allowing foreclosures to happen fast enough." So this is a two-fer, as far as the White House is concerned. They feel like they can talk about housing but also make the Republicans look like they're out of touch on that.

LAUER: You talk about Mitt Romney. How much pressure is on him right now? Because this week we're going to hear from Rick Perry, he's going to unveil his flat tax proposal on the heals of Herman Cain's 9-9-9 that's been amended to something slightly different. Whether you agree with either of those plans, the one thing about them is they're simple, people can understand them and they sound big. So how much pressure on Romney to come up with something similar?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Decision 2012; Will Flat Tax Revive Perry Campaign?]

TODD: He's going to have a lot of pressure. What is popular about Herman Cain, and now with Rick Perry, is getting rid of the tax code. That's what both of their plans are doing. Mitt Romney's plan, the 59-point plan that he's talked about, that Herman Cain even mocked at a debate, tinkers with the tax code. It talks about extending the Bush tax rates, for instance. Well, if you're extending them, that means you're keeping the tax code and what is popular right now inside the Republican Party – you heard Herman Cain say it, you hear Rick Perry say – get rid of the million-word mess that is the U.S. tax code. Romney's not doing it, he's going to feel pressure to do something more radical.

LAUER: Alright, in the time I have left, Chuck, on Friday the President announced that he would pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of the year, fulfilling a promise he made during the campaign back in 2008. But already Republicans are criticizing this, saying it's more about politics than sound military strategy. How exposed is the President on this?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Commander in Chief; Will Foreign Policy Successes Help the President?]

TODD: I don't think he's very exposed at all because public opinion is with him when it comes to these military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. They would like to see these troops brought home. And what's the alternative? You know, you talk to the Obama campaign and then say okay, Mitt Romney criticized the President for doing this, so does that mean a President Romney wants to send more troops back to Iraq? And they think politically that that's a more untenable position to have at this point.

LAUER: Chuck Todd in Washington. Chuck, as always, thanks very much.

TODD: You got it, sir.


- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.