David Plouffe appeared on Fox News Sunday yesterday where Chris Wallace repeatedly (and predictably) tried a number of gotcha questions that Plouffe seemed unprepared for. What was worse, when the subject of the deficit came up, he looked like he was trying to suck up by twice saying Obama wants a “fair and balanced” approach to reducing the deficit.
Wallace’s first gotcha came early when he deliberately tried to make it look like the Obama administration was hiding something regarding the national security leaks. In the exchange below, Plouffe at first suggested a “no” answer to Wallace’s suggestion that President Obama deliberately declassified what should have remained classified information) in order to have it leaked lawfully. Then, when Wallace said Plouffe had not answered the question, Plouffe outright answered “no.” Wallace somehow missed that and again accused Plouffe of not having answered the question. Right then and there, Plouffe should have highlighted that Wallace was ignoring the answer of favor of making it look like someone was pulling the wool over the viewers’ eyes. In fact, it was Wallace doing the wool-pulling.
WALLACE: Simple question: did the president or any other top official declassify any of the information that appeared in these articles?
PLOUFFE: Well, the president was very clear about this, Chris, in that interview, that he has zero tolerance for this kind of national security leak. There has now been by the attorney general, two United States attorneys appointed to investigate this, including a Bush appointee. We take this seriously, as anything can be taken. No one more than the president relies on this information to make good decisions and keep this country safe. I believe the person who wrote the book in question has said that no one in the White House provided this information. But we need a thorough investigation… There’s going to be a very thorough investigation. The attorney general spoke to this. Two United States attorneys will look under every rock here. This ought to be investigated as thoroughly as anything can, and we ought to await the results of that investigation.
WALLACE: But I do want to ask you, because you didn’t answer my direction question. Did the president or any other top official declassify any of the information that appeared in these articles?
PLOUFFE: No. Listen, the president and his national security team — first of all, these are the folks who’ve waged just a relentless and effective effort against Al Qaeda and its leadership. We decimated most of the top leadership including bin Laden. These national security information is so critical for the president and his administration in making the right decision. Nobody takes it more seriously than the president of the United States.
WALLACE: Forgive me, sir. It’s a yes or no. Did the president declassify any of this information?
PLOUFFE: No, of course, he didn’t. Of course, he didn’t.
WALLACE: He did not?
In fact, veteran journalists have spoken out against the right-wing scandalmongering, saying that such journalism is just the usual in-depth investigative reporting. Why didn't Plouffe go on offense with that?
Meanwhile, Wallace moved on to demand to know whether President Obama would follow in the footsteps of President Bush in how he handled the Valerie Plame leak, as if that had anything to do with the situation at hand. Plouffe made reasonable answers (that we need to let the investigation take its course) but he remained on defense instead of taking control of the discussion.
Finally, at about 11 minutes into the video, Wallace asked about the economy. That’s when Plouffe started mentioning “fair and balanced.”
PLOUFFE: What the president laid out is a clear choice facing the American people. And the contrast could not be clearer. This is a president who believes we need to grow the economy by putting the middle class first, creating middle class jobs, by reducing the deficit in a fair and balanced way, and by making sure then we can invest in things like innovation and infrastructure and science and research.
…PLOUFFE: It’s what this country needs to do, which is reduce the deficit in a right way, fair and balanced way.
WALLACE: I like the fact that you keep saying ‘fair and balanced.’
PLOUFFE: Well, it’s the right way, which is we need to cut more spending.
If Plouffe wanted to use that expression, it would have been better to say something like, we want to do it in our fair and balanced way or even put Wallace on defense with something like, “A fair and balanced way is what you and your viewers always look for, right?”
The only consolation is that Mitt Romney did far worse on Face The Nation.