Appearing on the Sunday, November 13, Today show on NBC to discuss Saturday night's GOP presidential debate that focused on foreign policy, Meet the Press host David Gregory suggested that, because President Obama's foreign policy, "by a lot of accounts," has been "very successful," the Republican candidates may not be so eager to go after Obama in that realm. Gregory, speaking of the candidates:
This was not necessarily the format or I should say the subject to try to distinguish one from the other. What they wanted to do was level attacks against President Obama, but that's going to be difficult as well. I don't think the Republican nominee for President really feels like that is the most vulnerable area for President Obama. His foreign policy by a lot of accounts has been very successful, particularly on the war on terror, and I think they want to focus on the economy.
A few weeks ago, on the October 23 Today show, Gregory had similarly asserted that "I don't think there's any question" that President Obama had erased the Democratic Party's vulnerability on the issue of foreign policy. Host Lester Holt had set up the segment:
There was the death of Muammar Gadhafi, and in Iraq all U.S. troops will be home by year's end. Two milestones reached in just a matter of days. What will it all mean for the President and the Republican candidates? ... The opposition to the war was central to President Obama's original campaign. How will it affect his legacy now that that war probably barely registers on the list of issues among American voters?
As he noted that Americans will likely be more interested in the economy than foreign policy, and that even the future in the foreign policy arena can still be uncertain, he praised President Obama:
I don't think this is top of mind for American voters as we start thinking about the election, but this is a leadership moment for the President, and at a time when government can't do a lot about the economy, it's certainly a time when he's accomplishing a lot, the President is, in foreign policy at a, at a momentous time for the rest of the world if you look at what's happening particularly in the Middle East.
Holt followed up by asking Gregory if Obama had succeeded in removing a "weak point" on foreign policy that Republicans are often able to use against Democrats:
And Democrats traditionally have been vulnerable to Republican charges of being weak on defense, soft on defense. This is the year that bin Laden was killed at the orders of the President, Gadhafi, a war in which the U.S. participated in, is now gone, the President has stepped up drone attacks in Pakistan. Taking that together, has he removed a weak point, an Achilles' heel, in the minds of Republicans who are trying to unseat him?
Gregory responded, "Oh, I mean, I don't think there's any question about that," before going on to hit the performance of the Republican presidential candidates over foreign policy in debates:
First of all, Republicans are becoming more isolationist, even though they've all piled on here and said that this is a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, it was President Bush who put the country on the glide path out of Iraq by coming up with this agreement in the first place.
Number two, if you look at this Republican debate and the series of debates, there has been the betrayal of a lack of understanding in foreign policy in some sections of these debates that is stunning to a lot of people. In 2011, after a decade at war, simple mistakes about geography or a lack of a really well thought out point of view about America and the rest of the world. So these are issues, if you go back to Hillary Clinton's 3 AM phone call ad against President Obama, who do you trust, who can handle that crisis? This is a President who has been tested now repeatedly in that arena, and I think it's something that he'll try to use as a club against Republicans in the debate.
- Brad Wilmouth is a news analyst at the Media Research Center