TODAY   |  October 09, 2009

Reporters gasp at Obama’s Nobel surprise

Oct. 9: President Obama was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize less than two weeks after taking office earlier this year. David Gregory, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” talks with TODAY co-host Matt Lauer about the award.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> meredith, thank you. nbc's david gregory is moderator of "meet the press." david, good morning to you.

>> good morning, matt.

>> how about those gasps in the room? i mean, when the reporters were covering this, they gasped in shock. this is a surprise. we're less than a year into the first term of this president, and there are no -- i'm not trying to be, you know, rude here -- no major foreign policy achievements to date. so, why did he win?

>> well, i think as the citation points out, this is a lot more about tone than substantive accomplishment. in many years, this is a european body who is more left-leaning, certainly, and opposed to the administration of george w. bush . the bush administration came in, turning away from large, international alliances, seeking to do away with the antiballistic missile treaty with russia, doing away with the agreement over kyoto on international climate change , and here comes barack obama and he's got a much different outlook about international alliances, international organizations , about climate, about dialogue, even with your enemies. it's a complete change in tone, and that's what they appear to be validating.

>> so, what you're saying in some ways -- and again, not to be rude here or sarcastic -- that in some ways, he wins this award for not being george w. bush .

>> i mean, i think that's an inescapable conclusion about all of this. the irony -- they cite non-proliferation as a goal, willingness to have dialogue, to reengage in parts of the middle east . the obama administration so far is carrying out, in terms of non-proliferation, very similar strategy to what the bush administration did on iran and north korea so far.

>> right.

>> notable differences, a willingness to talk directly to the iranians, and in fact, there's a debate within the white house about whether to escalate in the war in afghanistan . and as a political matter, climate change is still something that even the administration says is not going to be something that can be accomplished this year. so, again, this appears to be tone over actual accomplishment here.

>> well, let's talk politics, then. how is this likely to be treated by conservatives? is this a bit of a double-edged sword for the president? it's no secret the conservatives had opposed some of his foreign policy initiatives -- reaching out to iran, allowing former president clinton to go to north korea on that mission to free those u.s. journalists, even that early speech in egypt to the arab world . a lot of conservatives called it the "obama apology tour." so, how are they going to deal with this?

>> well, i think you can pick up the script from there. just like during the campaign, when the president campaigned overseas and a lot of conservatives thought that was odd and portrayed him as the international rock star and that you can only get love for america if you apologize for america. obviously, the white house will make a different argument, that re-engagement with the world is a better path toward peace, particularly after the bush years. and of course, here we have the president on the world stage two weeks in a row. last week it was going to copenhagen trying to bring the olympic games here, and he gets rebuffed. this week he gets embraced by the international community for who he is, what he believes in, what he stands for in terms of being a man of peace. so, on the world stage, quite shocking. and again, i think his conservative critics will say, you know, a lot of sizzle here, but not a lot of accomplishment.

>> right.

>> and that's probably what will pick it up.

>> and the bottom line is, it looks great on your mantle and resume, but doesn't help you get health care passes or help you solve the problem of afghanistan.

>> i guarantee you, as honored and humbled as i'm sure the president is by this award, he would much rather have the unemployment rate go down from 9.8% than this right now.

>> all right. david gregory in washington this morning with surprising news out of europe. david, thanks very much.

>> thank you.

>> all right. once again, here's