TODAY   |  December 08, 2013

Gregory: Obama’s presence at Mandela memorial will be ‘significant’

President Barack Obama will be joined by former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush at the memorial of Nelson Mandela on Tuesday. TODAY’s Erica Hill interviews NBC's David Gregory.

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

>>> david gregory is making a rather sunday appearance here in new york hosting "meet the press" from new york city later this morning. nice to have you here.

>> nice to be here.

>> we've been hearing a little bit this weekend, further plans for president obama when it comes to the events in south africa this week, and former president george w. bush , former president clinton , former president carter. who will their role be as u.s. presidents at these events?

>> i think just to be there, to pay tribute, to give the sense of moment it deserves, international recognition that it deserves. i think for all of them at different levels. president bush who i covered didn't have the closest relationship with mandela but no doubt respected him. bill clinton , of course, very close. and president obama in a unique way, encouraged to go see him when he's still a senator. mandela encouraged to meet with this up-and-coming star in politics. and for our president to be so moved by mandela , to really have his own place in the civil rights struggle against apartheid i think makes it very meaningful. his presence will be significant.

>> when it comes to president obama 's presence on the international stage, we know he's talking about this potential for comprehensive agreement with iran yesterday. he said it's 50/50 or, frankly, it could be worse. his approval numbers very low here. when it comes to the international stage, how is his capital right now?

>> i don't think it's exceedingly high. i think a lot of america 's allies, particularly in the middle east from israel to some of the gulf countries think america has lost its nerve in some regard, particularly when it comes to confronting iran . so i think there is some difficulty with our credibility because our economic standing has some impact as well. it doesn't diminish america 's overall power in the world and america 's real influence in the world. that is still very, very strong, even if some people have doubts about president obama .

>> how much of a focus is there for president obama in terms of international, seg tear hagel making his way to afghanistan. obviously something needs to be achieved there.

>> it's so difficult. i think as you look toward next year, disengaging from afghanistan become as huge priority. really iran is going to be the big test. that's the scary piece, the big security element. i think it's true. no one knows whether iran will ultimately do what president obama wants it to do, which is basically dismantle any pretense towards a nuclear weapon.