Brian Williams to Valerie Jarrett: Positive Media Coverage for Obama Will be a 'Tall Order'
Brian Williams, on NBC’s Thursday night coverage of the DNC, unleashed the biggest howler of the night when he told White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett: “You, I guess have to play mistake-free ball now for 60 days, hope for nothing but positive coverage. That's a tall order.” Given NBC’s coverage that evening that will be anything but a “tall order” as Williams and his colleagues praised Barack Obama and dumped on Mitt Romney all night.
Right before Williams’ question to Jarrett, Chuck Todd labeled the GOP convention a “missed opportunity” for Romney and David Gregory absurdly declared that the “Republican party does not have a natural advantage on national security” and insulted Obama foes as “hate-filled.”
A little bit after those pronouncements, Williams asked Jarrett:
“The Bob Woodruff book is coming out, Bob Woodward – I’m sorry, one, both acquaintances – and in it apparently the White House staff is in for a good savaging during the economic debacle. You, I guess have to play mistake-free ball now for 60 days, hope for nothing but positive coverage. That’s a tall order.”
For most of the broadcast NBC helped team Obama play “mistake-free ball” as they hailed Obama’s speech and even covered for his bumbling Vice President Joe Biden whom Gregory called: “pretty successful.”
The following is a round-up of some of the most obnoxious observations from the NBC crew as they were aired on the September 7 NBC live coverage of the DNC:
WILLIAMS: If you look at politics and life like baseball, the expression run support. You're out there supporting your starting pitcher. Which gathering, in your view, has done it better? Tampa for the Romney campaign or Charlotte for Obama-Biden?
CHUCK TODD: So far I don't think it's that close. I mean every, every hour of this convention, the Tampa convention for Romney looks more and more like a missed opportunity. That's not to say it was a bad convention. That's not to say Mitt Romney didn't get some things accomplished that he needed to do - his personal ratings.
But if you think about this campaign in different sections. Mitt Romney was a little bit behind, sort of going into the general election and he's been behind. In the summer he stayed behind. The conventions? It looks like he's gonna stay behind, barring the President somehow laying an egg tonight, which I don't think any of us expect. So now the pressure is really on him to, in that first debate. I mean, you know, Savannah talked about moments.
The convention now? Might have been a missed moment for him. The next big moment is gonna be not just the debates, the first debate. The pressure on him to win that first debate now is greater than its been had he had, frankly, won quote "the convention period."
BRIAN WILLIAMS: David Gregory there is a reason Americans hold politics and politicians in such low esteem these days. Everyone is kind of sick of nothing being able to get done. The tone and tenor of the debate. I wanted to get your reaction to a moment during Bill Clinton's speech last night when he talked about the hatred and vitriol between the two parties.
(Clip of Clinton speech)
GREGORY: I think that's powerful language for this reason. There are a lot of supporters of President Obama who may have turned against him after 2008 who don't like the tenor and tone of the opposition against him, where it becomes so personal and so hate-filled. Questioning his legitimacy as a president, where he was born and all the rest of some of these debates that we have heard. I think there's a lot of Americans, even if they don't like him who say, "This is not how I want the story to end of this presidency after one-term."
DAVID GREGORY: One thing an incumbent can do is talk about leadership in actual terms. Killing Osama Bin Laden on his watch, leadership as the commander-in-chief. That matters. That’s one of the powers of incumbency that I think we’re gonna hear a lot from Joe Biden tonight and from the President himself. You know this is a time when the Republican Party does not have a natural advantage on national security. I think you’ll hear the speakers really talk about that tonight.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Dr. [Jill] Biden was talking about a big cause, in addition to education in the Biden and Obama family, and that is military families. The Democrats kind of called out the Republicans for the speech of Mitt Romney. Which, for the first time in 60 years, did not mention troops who have been fighting, as you know, on two fronts for the better part of a decade.
TOM BROKAW: By any objective analysis the Democrats have done a far better job of paying tribute to those wars the people are fighting and the cause that now everyone has to get involved in which is to find jobs for them once they come home.
Let me read you something that came not from the New York Times editorial page, not from The Nation, not from Joe Biden. “The United States has some 68,000 troops fighting in Afghanistan, over 2000 Americans have died there. Mitt Romney has supported that war. Yet in his speech accepting his party’s nomination for commander-in-chief, Mitt Romney said not a word about the war in Afghanistan. Nor did he utter a word of appreciation to the troops fighting there or to those who have fought there.” William Kristol writing in The Standard, one of the most conservative commentators in America today.
I think that there must be a sense that, at the very least, acute disappointment on the part of a lot of people. Those two wars were the centerpiece of eight years of Republican president George W. Bush his Vice President Richard Cheney. We have not heard from them recently either, by the way, in terms of finding jobs. What do we now about those wars?
GREGORY: Look, you know the Obama team knew exactly what they were getting in Joe Biden when they signed up. Gaffe-prone, you know speaks off the cuff. That can be very effective in places where he’s gonna campaign. Could help President Obama. I think he’s been a very valuable adviser to him. In particular on national security matters. And even dealing with Congress. Though there’s not a tremendous amount of success there.
But I think Joe Biden has been overshadowed, certainly by Bill Clinton. Joe Biden’s got to be thinking about whether he wants to run for the presidency in 2016 and whether this convention gives him a springboard. And we’ve heard a lot, whether he got ahead of the President on gay marriage, the President’s talked a lot about making sure that Biden doesn’t put himself in a position where they can, that, that rift can be exploited. To keep them closer together.
I think all-in-all, there’s a lot of attention on it, but this has been a pretty successful vice president, particularly for President Obama.
After Obama speech:
WILLIAMS: The re-election is launched. Sixty days from now Americans will go to the polls. The incumbent president just charged up his crowd again. As Valerie Jarrett told us, just before the broadcast, the senior White House adviser, “This is not ‘08. This is a different man. A different year. Tempered. The New York Times, this morning, said he was a humble president, perhaps more conservative.
BROKAW: Four years later Barack Obama has been a commander-in-chief and he reminded the audience of that tonight. We heard almost nothing from Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan last week on wars and foreign policy. The President made it clear tonight that this is the party that will be the friends of the veterans who are still fighting and are coming home.
Gregory did offer one bit of reality for the Obama Team as he noted: “There’s so much celebration right now but the grim reality in America is great poverty, historic unemployment and I think a real question which is do Americans blame this president for that or do they not? And if he has to own that record he’s still in a lot of trouble. This was a much humbler president, I think, addressing this crowd. He’s got a future vision.”
But then Williams quickly turned to end the evening on the high note:
WILLIAMS: Savannah, final question. Is there an excitement gap between here and Tampa?
GUTHRIE: Well I think some people who have been at both conventions think there was something of an excitement gap. There may have been an excitement gap between the President’s speech and Bill Clinton’s last night. He electrified this room. This was, as Chuck Todd said, a workmanlike speech. But I think it probably hit all the notes.
-- Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Geoffrey Dickens on Twitter.