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MSNBC Praises Obama's 'Soaring' Speech, Calling on 'Wealthiest Americans to Pay Their Way'

On his 3PM ET hour show on MSNBC on Wednesday, host Martin Bashir enthusiastically reacted to President Obama's budget speech: "'We will invest in the future of America,' that's what President Obama just said in a much-anticipated speech on the budget....He offered a series of broad proposals and said it's time for the wealthiest Americans to pay their way and share in taxes."

Moments later, White House correspondent Mike Viqueira joined Bashir and proclaimed: "..the President's speech was part soaring, speaking to the aspirations and character of a nation, if you will." Bashir observed: "Mike, I don't want to sound as if I'm misrepresenting the President, but it appeared to me that he was suggesting that we can't be self-centered as far as fiscal policy is concerned. We can't simply slash programs everywhere without somehow expecting the wealthiest in society to contribute. Is that your impression?"

Viqueira agreed and reiterated: "Well, the President did reach for, as I said, that soaring sort of rhetoric that speaks to the basic aspirations of people and the beliefs of what America is. He said, 'It tells us' - the Ryan plan, talking about the Republican plan - 'It tells us we can't afford the America we believe in.' So the President sort of laid out his vision for America."

Near the end of the segment, Bashir remarked: "When I hear the current discussion about cutting spending, I'm reminded of what Margaret Thatcher in Britain during the 1980's, when she dismissed the idea of a civic society and she said that all she wanted to do was focus on individuals. Isn't that what we now have, a president who wants shared sacrifices, an opposition that's solely focused on cuts that would appear to hit the most vulnerable without any consideration for raising taxes?"

Viqueira replied: "And that's what the President did. He's done this before, quotes Abraham Lincoln, as he points out, the first Republican president, saying that the idea here for American government is to help those who can't help themselves. And they really are trying to encourage the coming battle to be fought on that - those grounds."

In addition to praising Obama's speech, Bashir also slammed Republicans for criticizing the President: "Republicans didn't even wait for the President to make his speech today before coming out with a scathing review of his handling of the issue....I'm curious about the reaction of the White House to entertaining a group of Republicans to morning coffee and then to hear them come out and immediately trash the President's speech even before he's delivered it."

Here is a transcript of the April 13 exchange between Bashir and Viqueira:

3:00PM ET

MARTIN BASHIR: 'We will invest in the future of America,' that's what President Obama just said in a much-anticipated speech on the budget and his plan to tackle the nation's mounting debt and deficits. He offered a series of broad proposals and said it's time for the wealthiest Americans to pay their way and share in taxes.

BARACK OBAMA: In December I agreed to extend the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans because it was the only way I could prevent a tax hike on middle class Americans. But we cannot afford $1 trillion worth of tax cuts for every millionaire and billionaire in our society. We can't afford it. And I refuse to renew them again.

BASHIR: Republicans didn't even wait for the President to make his speech today before coming out with a scathing review of his handling of the issue.

JOHN BOEHNER [REP. R-OH]: I have been pushing the President for months to engage in this discussion about our long-term fiscal mess. I'm glad that he's finally decided to engage in it.

ERIC CANTOR [REP. R-VA]: This is vintage obama. He's been standing on the sidelines expecting the rest of us to make the tough decisions to lead this country.

BASHIR: NBC's Mike Viqueira is live at the White House. And Luke Russert joins us live from Capitol Hill. Mike, can I begin with you? Before we discuss the President's speech, I'm curious about the reaction of the White House to entertaining a group of Republicans to morning coffee and then to hear them come out and immediately trash the President's speech even before he's delivered it.

MIKE VIQUEIRA: Yeah, well, you know, Martin, I have to say part of that is sort of a set piece. I thought an interesting portion of the afternoon had to do with the fact that Paul Ryan, you saw his picture there, in the chiron over your shoulder, was sitting in the front row and the President spent a good amount of time absolutely bashing the plan that Paul Ryan has constructed, the actual detailed piece of legislation that's going to be on the House of Representatives' floor tomorrow and Friday.

You know, the President's speech was part soaring, speaking to the aspirations and character of a nation, if you will. Part framework - and that word 'framework' should be emphasized, because White House officials on background have been using it over and over and over again today - it did not have sort of the granularity or details that would go with a legislative proposal.

And part of it, and a significant part of it, really setting the President and Democrats apart from what Republicans are going to be doing and proposing and debating over the course of the next two days in the House of Representatives, specifically when it comes to tax reform. The President obviously feels the Republican plan is tilted more towards the wealthy. And Medicare, the valued but costly program for elderly, that the President accuses Paul Ryan and Republicans of trying to privatize.

The President, again, a framework, he says $4 trillion in debt reduction over the course of the next 12 years, if these recommendations are followed. Reform of the tax code to make it simpler and fairer, not a great deal of detail, again, in a lot of these proposals. The White House does say that for every $3 in cuts there will be $1 in tax revenue. It comes with a fail-safe or trigger, if the ratio of debt exceeds a certain percentage of the Gross Domestic Product in this country. And it brings up an interesting point, too, Martin. Why are we having the discussion? Because the total national debt in this country, now $14.3 trillion, exceeds the yearly GDP of this country, $14.1 trillion. And that is part of what's driving the urgency of this discussion, Martin.

BASHIR: Mike, I don't want to sound as if I'm misrepresenting the President, but it appeared to me that he was suggesting that we can't be self-centered as far as fiscal policy is concerned. We can't simply slash programs everywhere without somehow expecting the wealthiest in society to contribute. Is that your impression?

VIQUEIRA: Well, the President did reach for, as I said, that soaring sort of rhetoric that speaks to the basic aspirations of people and the beliefs of what America is. He said, 'It tells us' - the Ryan plan, talking about the Republican plan - 'It tells us we can't afford the America we believe in.' So the President sort of laid out his vision for America and the sort of details, what we can afford, the percentage of the national budget that's devoted to things like Social Security, like Medicare, like Medicaid.

(...)

BASHIR: Mike, when I hear the current discussion about cutting spending, I'm reminded of what Margaret Thatcher in Britain during the 1980's, when she dismissed the idea of a civic society and she said that all she wanted to do was focus on individuals. Isn't that what we now have, a president who wants shared sacrifices, an opposition that's solely focused on cuts that would appear to hit the most vulnerable without any consideration for raising taxes?

VIQUEIRA: And that's what the President did. He's done this before, quotes Abraham Lincoln, as he points out, the first Republican president, saying that the idea here for American government is to help those who can't help themselves. And they really are trying to encourage the coming battle to be fought on that - those grounds.

You know, the interesting thing about it is, Martin, and we've seen this time and time again over the last 30 years, Republicans welcome the class warfare argument. They welcome that debate. They feel like they come out on top a lot. It's going to be extremely interesting to see over the course of the next couple of months as we inch up to this debt ceiling, lifting the debt ceiling in Congress, how this all plays out.

You know, the President is gambling here that he laid out just enough detail to satisfy the American public when they're comparing what he wants to do to the detailed legislative plan that's actually moving through Congress at the behest of Republicans. The gamble is here that the President has enough of a plan that the public is going to buy into and allow them to move forward without having to have a big fight around debt ceiling, raising the debt ceiling.

- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.