Over the summer it was rumored that NBC was going to drop David Gregory from the Meet the Press moderator’s chair because of dramatically declining ratings. Would that they had.
Except for FOX appearances, Mitt Romney has been AWOL from network news interview programs. On Sunday, host David Gregory missed opportunity after opportunity to quiz Romney meaningfully on his first appearance on that show in years. It was a fingernails-on-blackboard experience.
Maybe Mitt’s campaign negotiated with the producers to have the whole first segment be more People magazine personal or else he wouldn’t appear. If so, shouldn’t Gregory have announced that? If not, don’t waste our time! Disclosure of onerous ground rules might have explained what happened.
The interview seemed like ‘Larry King does the Romneys.’ He threw softball after softball to Ann and Mitt. When they said they were not in the race to slow the rise of the ocean or cure the planet but to help people, Gregory could have asked, “but aren’t there any human consequences of environmental degradation.” Alas, he did not.
Then there was this hardball: Are you proud to the the first Mormon nominee and perhaps the first Mormon President? Did he expect “no” for an answer?
The second half was supposed to be the substantive part. Gregory asked about Romney’s fiscal plans and got the usual vague answer that he’d bring down the top rates, limit deductions and exemptions – just at the high end (that was something new) – and maintain defense at a certain percentage of GDP. He also said the middle class shouldn’t have to pay taxes on interest and dividends.
There were at least three opportunities to push Romney on what the deductions and exemptions were that, if elected President, he’d eliminate, but Gregory couldn’t get the candidate to be specific and seemed to throw in the towel. It must be like Nixon’s secret plan to end the war: trust me.
When Romney said that “there’s nothing wrong with compromise, but I won’t abandon my principles,” it was another opening to move beyond cliche. Again, Gregory failed to get Romney to explain, in light of his gubernatorial experience, how he might compromise on principles in order to break congressional gridlock and make deals in D.C.
On health care, Gregory allowed Romney to say oh, yes, he’d replace ObamaCare with his own plan, which would preserve coverage for pre-existing conditions, but he never even asked him if that were required how he’d pay for it.
Romney said he hoped to appoint justices to the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe v. Wade. But Gregory never asked him about the co-chair of his Justice Advisory Committee, Robert Bork, or put up on the screen some of Bork’s outlier constitutional views, asking the candidate whether those views were consonant with his own.
On to foreign policy. Romney said Obama’s greatest failure is in a nuclear Iran. Gregory should have asked how Romney would respond if Israel moves on Iran unilaterally. He did not. Gregory did ask if Obama’s failure on Iran wasn’t the same as George W. Bush’s policy, and didn’t that fail as well? Romney dodged it, and Gregory couldn’t deliver. He asked at one point where should the red line be in terms of possible U.S. response but never followed up when an answer was not forthcoming.
With time left for one more question, Gregory asked Romney how he would handle losing if, in fact, he lost the election. Come on!
To make matters worse, at the end of this embarrassing interview, Gregory teased the up-coming panel discussion, saying with a straight face, “How did Governor Romney change the debate in this campaign with this interview.” Oh, really?
Late Meet the Press anchor Tim Russert must be rolling over in his grave. Yes, he left big shoes to fill. But David Gregory is not the one to do it! (Time for Chuck Todd?)
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