NBC Cheerleads for Obama, Praises His 'Rousing' and 'Optimistic' Speech About 'Fairness'
Moments after President Obama concluded his State of the Union address on Tuesday, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams could barely contain his glee over the speech: "A rousing recitation, a reminder of why the nation is great from President Obama." [Listen to the audio]
Meet the Press host David Gregory was next to take up the pom-poms, as he proclaimed: "Well, this is the power of the presidency....This was a president who was very forceful.... This was his pitch for re-election. Economic fairness is at the core of it." Williams played off Gregory's comment and sounded like a White House spokesman: "Chuck Todd, anything wrong with reminding people that as a nation we're best when we have each other's backs and what is great about America?"
NBC's chief White House correspondent took the not-so-subtle cue and framed the address as a boost for Obama's re-election campaign: "No and that's what – the other thing that struck me about this is that he was going – look, you know, we always know that the President that paints the most – the presidential candidate that paints the most optimistic picture does usually end up winning election or re-election....This was, if you will, optimistic populism."
Trying to hammer home the President's class warfare message, Gregory chimed in: "Can I just add the fairness piece is that the rich need to do more. I mean, that's where, I think, is really about the fairness argument."
Later in the fawning exchange, Todd gushed: "...we talked about the tone being a very optimistic tone, pro-America and I think you interspersed – the word 'America' may have been said more times than in a while in a State of the Union."
During that same exchange, Andrea Mitchell joined the discussion and also touted the President's patriotic tone while dismissing Republican criticism: "...it would be very hard to say that he is apologizing for America. This was resoundingly positive and optimistic in every way."
Here is a transcript of the January 24 post-speech reaction:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: A rousing recitation, a reminder of why the nation is great from President Obama, his State of the Union address in an election year tonight. As we watch him say his good-byes to the front of the House. David Gregory at the front of our analysis, what did you make of tonight, David?
DAVID GREGORY: Well, this is the power of the presidency, Brian, as we've been talking about. This was a president who was very forceful – as we saw Congresswoman Giffords there – in making another plea, as he did last year, for Congress to come together, for the two parties to come together. Yet he knows as well as anybody that there is a deep philosophical divide about what government should be doing right now in great economic distress. This was his pitch for re-election. Economic fairness is at the core of it. He wants to double down on this argument, take it into the campaign in the fall. How many times did we hear the word "fairness" tonight about the economy, about taxes. Again, this is the argument he wants to make.
WILLIAMS: Chuck Todd, anything wrong with reminding people that as a nation we're best when we have each other's backs and what is great about America?
CHUCK TODD: No and that's what – the other thing that struck me about this is that he was going – look, you know, we always know that the President that paints the most – the presidential candidate that paints the most optimistic picture does usually end up winning election or re-election. It was a very opt – it was interesting, usually when you hear populism, it can have a little bit of a tinge of anger or resentment in it. This was, if you will, optimistic populism. Basically, we've got to start rooting for – everything in here was definitely about America first, a little bit of nationalism in here, but in an optimistic tone saying, "Hey, we've got to build jobs here. Let's make companies do it here, let's people do their fair share." It's clear, obviously, when you had aides admit that we're going to hear a lot of this on the campaign trail, that this was an attempt to set the political agenda and set the campaign's agenda going forward.
GREGORY: Can I just add the fairness piece is that the rich need to do more. I mean, that's where, I think, is really about the fairness argument.
TODD: And I would just throw in one more thing, by the way, about the – about this speech. It felt like, "Hey, by the way, I've got a few things to say about, in response to all the presidential candidates that have been attacking me for the last six weeks and I'm going to say it."
WILLIAMS: The first time he's talked about Bin Laden in depth since back when Bin Laden was killed. Andrea Mitchell?
ANDREA MITCHELL: In fact, he opened, of course, with that and with Iraq. Perhaps some would say took too much credit for progress in Afghanistan. But certainly, the troops out of Iraq, with Bin Laden, the opening and the resounding conclusion of this speech rhetorically. And as Chuck was just saying, we've been hearing on the campaign trail Mitt Romney saying that this president apologizes for America, harking back to the 2009 Cairo speech. Any viewer watching this, despite personal prejudices, pro or con, or partisan differences, would look at this speech and it would be very hard to say that he is apologizing for America. This was resoundingly positive and optimistic in every way. And it becomes the predicate for the campaign because now he set the scale very high of all these things he says can be achieved. Perhaps not realistic, but now he can campaign against Congress for failing.
WILLIAMS: And Chuck Todd, if folks notice something nice in the chamber tonight, as we noted and felt the need to explain, there were more applause – instances of applause on both sides of the aisle at once, it's because of a kind of pairing up system. And it's what, second go around?
TODD: It is. And this was, of course, in the aftermath of the Gabby Giffords shooting, the State of the Union was just a couple weeks after that. Every member of Congress found a bipartisan date, if you will. Most of these members did it again this year. So you might have seen, and somebody might notice, "Wow, look he's getting" – it was still a very partisan applause that you heard, but it was sort of interspersed in the video.
WILLIAMS: Sprinkled more fully throughout the room. David?
GREGORY: These speeches, Brian, as you know, are about a President's vision for the future of the country, not just a report on where the country is, but a real vision. And again this is a re-election pitch in an election year. The White House believes quite firmly that whoever wins the vision for the future of the economy wins this election. And that's really what you heard. You got contrast between all the things he talked about, programs big and small, and the notion of we don't want to go back to what got us in the mess. That's the contrast. And of course, we know that Mitt Romney if he is the nominee, is going to be the foil for people who are, you know, working the system in a way that the President thinks is unfair.
MITCHELL: And especially his mention of the Buffett Rule, proposing that millionaires lose deductions and that there be a minimum tax of 30%, we're told is the detail on millionaires, that in such exquisite contrast with today being the day that Mitt Romney finally, under pressure for weeks and weeks by Republicans, by the media, by others, finally did release his tax returns. And we saw that his effective rate was under 14% for 2010.
WILLIAMS: You know, I was going to ask you, Chuck, how much of this, how much by percentage of this speech was aimed at his – at the Republicans who have been just having at the President, 18 debates now.
TODD: Yeah, I felt like I heard three or four references, the envy. "This is not about envy," when it came to his explanation of the Buffett Rule. That's a direct word that was used by Mitt Romney in describing the attacks on him, actually, that were coming from Newt Gingrich. You heard a response when it came to foreign policy that felt like a response to both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum when it came to Iran.
But I'll tell you this, you know, we talked about the tone being a very optimistic tone, pro-America and I think you interspersed – the word "America" may have been said more times than in a while in a State of the Union. But there was still clear who he wants to be against: "Hey, you're mad at Wall Street, so I am. I'm setting up a criminal unit to go after them. They're criminals, I'm going to go prosecute them. Some might say, hey, where was that three years ago? You're upset with the way Congress works? So am I. I want to put new rules on there. You're upset with the rich not paying their fair share? So am I."
MITCHELL: And China. That is going to resonate, that is going to have some, perhaps, unintended consequences.
- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.