Chuck Todd addressed reporters during a visit to Murray State.
(Murray, KY) - Meet the Press host Chuck Todd listed Kentucky Senator Rand Paul as part of his Final Four for the GOP presidential race. Todd told reporters on Tuesday former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and Senator Rand Paul represent different constituencies in the Republican Party.
"Underrate Rand Paul at your own peril," he said. There are not many Republicans that can go to a college campus and be cheered. Paul can.
On the down side, Todd said that Paul is not universally popular in his own party. The joke around Washington is the only reason Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R- South Carolina) is in the presidential race is to heckle Rand Paul. Graham and Paul have diametrically opposed views on foreign affairs and especially on US military interventions. Paul is opposed and Graham is known to be a hawk on military affairs.
Todd reminded listeners that the dynamics of a presidential campaign can change quickly. He cited the recent visits of Scott Walker and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to the UK. Neither politician wanted to say anything that could be taken out of context - still they stumbled over reporters' questions.
NBC affiliate WPSD Local 6 reporter Elizabeth Fields asked Todd about suspension of NBC anchor Brian Williams following allegations he lied about a war zone incident.
"What can we learn from this?"
Todd said Williams is a friend and described the veteran reporter as a mentor. He said that everyone is accountable for the facts. He is happy to be working for a network that takes credibility so seriously.
Credibility is a theme he returned to several times. Todd said that is lamentable that politicians are held to such a low standard of truthfulness. He used a word created and popularized by Comedy Channel host Stephen Colbert to describe Veteran Affairs Director Robert McDonald's statements on his program as "truthiness." Todd said that the VA director, who most recently apologized for telling a homeless veteran that he too was a special forces soldier when he was not, told Meet the Press that more people were fired in housecleaning the VA.
"We did our own fact checking and found his statements to be not factual."
The political director was also asked about becoming a part of the Kentucky senatorial campaign last fall. Todd was used in political advertising for Senator Mitch McConnell saying that challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes disqualified herself in refusing to answer whether she voted for President Obama.
"No one wants to become part of the story." Todd went on to criticize the Grimes campaign for never making her opponent the center of attention. "She just didn't run a good campaign."
When asked if the GOP presidential candidate will have an advantage for being part of a vigorous primary over Hillary Clinton who will not, Todd believes it will put Clinton at a disadvantage.
"It's a huge problem for her. She needs to be challenged. We saw her struggle during the book tour."
Todd's experience with the Clintons goes back to 1992. The Clintons, he said, don't like the press. It goes back to Jennifer Flowers. (Flowers was the woman whose allegations forced Bill and Hillary Clinton to address marital issues publicly in Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign.) While Todd understands their feelings, he said it creates a bubble around Mrs. Clinton that is virtually impossible for the press to penetrate.
The modern presidency, according to Todd, is one where the public expects presidential knowledge of every subject and comments on all subjects. He said that the ideal candidate "floods the zone" and is talking as much as Sen. John McCain in his first presidential run. McCain, according to Todd, was having press conferences three times a day. That made a little known senator into a well known candidate.
MSU President Robert Davies (right) asked for advice for graduating media and journalism students.
Todd, whose major was political science, advised student journalists to become specialists. Media is going to specialists. The networks are hiring doctors to report on medical issues, lawyers on legal issues. His background in politics was the reason he was chosen to be political director.
Chuck Todd was at Murray State University on Tuesday as speaker at Murray State University's 2015 Presidential Lecture Series.