“Obviously, it’s a pretty big honor for me to be sitting in this chair as the 12th moderator of the program, following in the footsteps of the likes of Martha Rountree, Lawrence Spivak, Tim Russert — and, of course, David Gregory,” new Meet the Press host Chuck Todd said at the top of his debut (reminding viewers the show was once moderated by a woman and how far we have not come in this country, news TV-wise). Rountree remains the only female moderator in program’s six-decades-plus.
Then Todd talked decorating. “As you can see we’re making a few changes around here. As I like to say we’re living in a house as we remodel it. So the program and this studio will continue to evolve over the coming months. But what better way to start off my first show than with an exclusive sit-down with the president of the United States.”
Joining Todd were the usual run of Sunday Beltway show talkers: WaPo political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson, NBC’s chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, Michael Leiter, national security and counterterrorism analyst for NBC News and former director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), Buzzfeed’s Washington bureau chief John Stanton, and The Cook Political Report national editor Amy Walter.
“To say it’s been a long hot summer for President Obama is quite an understatement,” Voiceover Todd began in a walk-up to the Obama interview; he ticked off the issues: ISIS, Obama’s “We don’t have a strategy yet” statement in re ISIS, having dared to play golf while on vacation after making a nationally televised statement condemning ISIS’s execution of American journalist James Foley (obviously he should’ve gone to church with some blow-dried evangelists and prayed).
“All this contributing to a sense the world is spinning out of the president’s control,” Todd concluded. And with that, the interview began.
President Obama said the U.S. needs to “start going on some offense” to stop ISIS — he calls is ISIL “There’s going to be a military element to it…And what I want people to understand, though, is that over the course of months, we are going to be able to not just blunt the momentum of ISIL. We are going to systematically degrade their capabilities. We’re going to shrink the territory that they control. And ultimately we’re going to defeat them.”
Obama also indicated he is likely to send military resources to help deal with Ebola in Africa.
Things got testy – and Todd showed a tendency to interrupt — when Obama defended his decision to delay executive action on immigration, saying the summer’s surge of unaccompanied children at the Mexican border changed the politics of the issue. He rejected Todd’s notion the postponement is a political tactic intended to help embattled Democrats in the months before midterm elections, saying that the delay will help make new immigration policies “sustainable” when they are announced later this year.
Obama’s been making appearances on national TV about three out of every five days for the past few weeks — what with ISIS beheading American journalists, Ferguson, MO breaking out in protests and tanks after the shooting death of Michael Brown, and Russian President Vladimir Putin invading Ukraine. Even so, booking POTUS for Sunday’s show was considered a feather in Todd’s cap – an “aggressive opening salvo,” as Politico plugged it.