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NBC's Lauer Cites Obama Flack to Question If Paul Ryan Gave an 'Honest Speech'

In an interview with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush on Thursday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer used attack lines from deputy Obama campaign manager Stephanie Cutter to question the honesty of Paul Ryan's vice presidential nomination acceptance speech: "[She] said, 'Forty minutes of vitriol and half a dozen previously debunked attacks.' Was it an honest speech or was it just a campaign convention speech?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

This is the same Stephanie Cutter who in July made the wild accusation that Mitt Romney was a felon. In an interview with Cutter shortly after that outrageous comment, Lauer failed to even mention the remark, let alone challenge her on it.

Bush rejected the smear: "I thought it was a very honest speech. Paul Ryan is in the reality wing of the Republican Party....he talked about the failures of the President's economic policies."

Lauer then tried to paint Ryan as a hypocrite: "One of the things he criticized the President for, was for rejecting what Ryan called, the, quote, 'Urgent recommendations of a bipartisan debt commission'....[Ryan] ultimately voted against those same recommendations. So where's the truth in that? Why is he barking up that tree?"

Bush pointed out that Ryan opposed the debt commission recommendations because the proposal didn't go far enough: "...the reason that he didn't vote for it, was it didn't even deal with entitlement reform. And he has a proposal for entitlement reform. And of course the President and his team are going to attack the Ryan plan, but they're not offering any compelling alternative."

After having his two attacks on Ryan rebuffed, Lauer played the war-on-women card: "Governor Romney has chipped away at the gender gap....But some people worry that the addition of Paul Ryan to this ticket, and bringing with him his staunchly conservative views on topics like abortion, will slow that momentum? Do you share that fear?"

Lauer rounded out his grilling of Bush by fretting that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan were not ready for the job:

Remember in 2008, that somewhat famous Hillary Clinton campaign ad about the 3:00 a.m. phone call and was Barack Obama prepared to answer it? Voters decided he was. And now he's had four years to work with foreign policy and national security. Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan don't have that same experience. Are they prepared to answer that 3:00 a.m. phone call?

Bush shot back: "Absolutely. The President gets pretty good marks for foreign policy efforts, but it's because his economic policy is so bad. Compared to that, it looks alright."

Here is a full transcript of the August 30 interview:

7:12AM ET

MATT LAUER: Jeb Bush is the former Republican governor of the state of Florida. Governor Bush, it's always nice to see you, thanks for coming in.

JEB BUSH: Matt, welcome to Florida.

LAUER: Thank you, good to be here. You watched the speech last night. Did Paul Ryan do what he had to do?

JEB BUSH: Absolutely. First of all, he introduced himself to the American voters. This is a person that's from the heartland of our country, that comes from a background that many people can relate to and who's been extraordinarily successful. I love his mom, you know? I love the whole package.

LAUER: Most of the reviews I've read this morning were pretty strong in terms of its power, the speech, and its tone. Some were critical. Stephanie Cutter, the deputy campaign manager for the Obama campaign, said, "Forty minutes of vitriol and half a dozen previously debunked attacks." Was it an honest speech or was it just a campaign convention speech?

BUSH: I thought it was a very honest speech. Paul Ryan is in the reality wing of the Republican Party. In Washington D.C., normally President's submit budgets and there's debate and you have ideas and you present them to the Congress. The only guy in the last few years that has actually had substantive plans to deal with our structural problems is Paul Ryan. And he talked about that and he talked about the failures of the President's economic policies. So that's fair game.

LAUER: One of the things he criticized the President for, was for rejecting what Ryan called, the, quote, "Urgent recommendations of a bipartisan debt commission." But Congressman Ryan failed to mention that he served on that same debt commission and that as the GOP's ranking member of the House Budget Committee, he ultimately voted against those same recommendations. So where's the truth in that? Why is he barking up that tree?

BUSH: Well, first of all, this was a president's commission, he – I don't think you've ever heard Barack Obama say Simpson-Bowles in the same sentence. He didn't even – he's not even acknowledged it, didn't even say if it was good or bad. He's never acknowledged its existence. What Paul Ryan says, the reason that he didn't vote for it, was it didn't even deal with entitlement reform. And he has a proposal for entitlement reform. And of course the President and his team are going to attack the Ryan plan, but they're not offering any compelling alternative.

LAUER: Let's talk about women. They are going to be key to this election. Governor Romney has chipped away at the gender gap. It was about 25 points in the advantage of President Obama, it's down to about 10 or 12. But some people worry that the addition of Paul Ryan to this ticket and bringing with him his staunchly conservative views on topics like abortion, will slow that momentum? Do you share that fear?

BUSH: I think if the focus remains on how do you create a climate of sustained economic growth, where jobs are created and where people can pursue their own dreams, rather than feeling compelled to get in line with an ever-increasing government, that the Republicans will win.

LAUER: Social issues will not play that big a factor, in your opinion?

BUSH: No, I mean if – look, I'm pro-life and I know Paul Ryan is. These are deeply held views. But that's not going to create a job for someone who's laid off.

LAUER: Remember in 2008, that somewhat famous Hillary Clinton campaign ad about the 3:00 a.m. phone call and was Barack Obama prepared to answer it? Voters decided he was. And now he's had four years to work with foreign policy and national security. Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan don't have that same experience. Are they prepared to answer that 3:00 a.m. phone call?

BUSH: Absolutely. Absolutely. The President gets pretty good marks for foreign policy efforts, but it's because his economic policy is so bad. Compared to that, it looks alright. But I think if you had a debate about not just, 'Is he capable of being president?,' of course he is, he's served– the President has served. But his politics, I think, have been weak. I love Condi Rice's description, respectful description, of a weak foreign policy and I think Mitt Romney will restore a sense that the United States has a powerful moral role in the world.

LAUER: In an earlier interview, you talked about this election and you said, quote, "This probably was my time." And that struck me. Are you having second thoughts about not running?

BUSH: Well, there was a comma there, and it said, "And I'm completely comfortable with my decision."

LAUER: No second thoughts?

BUSH: No second thoughts.

LAUER: Jon Stewart and the Daily Show, they call their convention coverage here, "RNC 2012: The Road to Jeb Bush 2016." [Laughter] Does it make you laugh or does it make you think about four years down the road, if Governor Romney is not successful?

BUSH: It makes me laugh as much as those twins. I'm going to stick around to see these kids perform.

LAUER: Alright, we're happy we could provide a little laughter for you this morning. Governor, it's always nice to see you.

BUSH: Thank you.

LAUER: Thank you very much. And you can see Mitt Romney's acceptance speech tonight on NBC's coverage of the Republican National Convention, 10 Eastern/7 Pacific, right here on NBC. And coming up, we'll talk to the always-interesting Bill O'Reilly.