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NBC's Williams Wonders If Debate Was Romney's 'Etch-A-Sketch Moment'

Shortly following the conclusion of the final presidential debate Monday night, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams posed this question to Richard Haas of the Council on Foreign Relations: "I noticed a columnist for the New York Times tonight tweeted out that this was an etch-a-sketch moment for Governor Romney....Did you see that kind of movement on his part?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Williams reminded viewers of the origin of the phrase: "It was obviously a knock of the campaign story that came up about changing policy, moving toward the center with an ease of erasing an etch-a-sketch." Haas avoided any validation of the liberal talking point: "I'm almost more comfortable, Brian, leaving the politics to others, about, you know, what Governor Romney was trying to do tonight."

While Williams failed to the name the Times columnist he cited, the observation was identical to ranting from left-wing MSNBC Hardball host Chris Matthews following Romney's decisive win in the first debate: "Romney's been accused of etch-a-sketch, last night was his greatest achievement. Everything he said within days ago, he's ignored."

Moments before speaking to Haas, Williams gushed over President Obama's "horses and bayonets" zinger as "the phrase or expression that will live forever" after the debate.

Here is a transcript of the October 22 exchange:

10:40PM ET

(...)

BRIAN WILLIAMS: I noticed a columnist for the New York Times tonight tweeted out that this was an etch-a-sketch moment for Governor Romney. It was obviously a knock of the campaign story that came up about changing policy, moving toward the center with an ease of erasing an etch-a-sketch. Did you see that kind of movement on his part?

RICHARD HAAS [COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS]: Well, again, I'm almost more comfortable, Brian, leaving the politics to others, about, you know, what Governor Romney was trying to do tonight.

But clearly, a big part of it, I think, was trying to communicate that he had the temperament to be a commander in chief. And the tone of the United States is – I think he had a very strong line about no more Iraqs or Afghanistans. That I think he has understood that there is a kind of intervention fatigue. And the talk, for example, about Iran was less about using military force than it was about tightening the sanctions.

And again, you were kidding me about it before, but again, I found it striking how both gentlemen were talking so much about things domestic. Here it was a foreign policy debate, and they both kept coming back to what were the real bases of American strength, enough nation-building overseas, now we need to start nation-building at home. That to me was a consistent theme, and I think they're both reflecting what they're hearing and seeing out around the country.

(...)