Tom Brokaw, on Wednesday's Today show, welcomed Rick Perry into the GOP race for president by trying to scare that show's liberal viewers with the Texas governor's views on Social Security and the Supreme Court. The former NBC Nightly News anchor predicted that Republicans at the NBC News/Politico GOP presidential debate will "take a whack" at the new frontrunner, adding that they will be "looking at a book he wrote...called Fed Up."
Brokaw then listed, what he viewed, were controversial points in the book: "He describes Social Security as a Ponzi scheme. He said that the Supreme Court is an oligarchy with a two-thirds vote. He talked about succession [sic]."
Brokaw then went on to note Perry had "obviously captured that part of the Republican Party dominated...by the Tea Party," something Today show co-anchor mentioned could be problem in the general election as she observed: "a new Quinnipiac poll is finding that just 12 percent of voters consider themselves actually Tea Party members." Curry's quip was accompanied by a poll graphic that put the Tea Party's unfavorable rating at 49 percent.
For his part Brokaw responded with a backhanded compliment as he described the Tea Party as "a small choir but it's very organized and it's very noisy." He the insisted: "The danger for Republican candidates is that if you play only to that narrow part of their party, what happens when the general election comes along? But I've said this before. Tea Party has played the by the rules. They got organized, they got angry, and they got to where they are."
However, Brokaw also had a mixed review for Barack Obama as he pointed out: "His numbers are way down. People still like him but they don't think he's getting the job done on the economy and all the, all the indications are they're willing to trade him in for someone else."
The following is a complete transcript of the segment as it was aired on the September 7 Today show:
ANN CURRY: Now to politics and what's sure to be an interesting debate between the Republican presidential candidates. The GOP field takes to the stage at the Reagan Presidential Library in California tonight for the NBC News political debate. And for the first time Texas Governor Rick Perry will be in attendance. Tom Brokaw is here now to break it all down for us. Tom, good morning.
TOM BROKAW: Good morning, Ann
CURRY: So according to the polls Rick Perry is already leading this race even though he's only been in it for some, what, three weeks? And so the question really is, you know, even before he's had his first national presidential debate, with him so high in the polls, what are the stakes for the field tonight?
[On screen headline: "Decision 2012, What's At Stake In Tonight's GOP Debate?"]
BROKAW: Well the stakes are, it seems to me, whether he appears or not because of the wildfires in Texas, he's gonna be the pinata at this debate. Everybody is gonna take a whack at him because he's had such a meteoric rise. And a lot of them will be looking at a book he wrote a couple of years ago called Fed Up. He describes Social Security as a Ponzi scheme. He said that the Supreme Court is an oligarchy with a two-thirds vote. He talked about succession [sic]. Now, this is a man who has raised a lot of money. He's very telegenic. He's obviously captured that part of the Republican Party dominated, at the moment, by the Tea Party. So he's got a lot of things going on. And for Romney and the others, they've got to slow him up.
CURRY: Meantime, the Republican candidates are really courting, as we all know, the, the Tea Party. But a new Quinnipiac poll is finding that just 12 percent of voters consider themselves actually Tea Party members. So do you think the Tea Party will have as big an influence on the national general election as it seems to be having on the primary?
[On screen graphic]
Quinnipiac University Poll (August 16-27) +/- 1.9%
View of Tea Party
BROKAW: Well, we'll see. The fact is that the Tea Party members are extremely well organized and they do show up. It's a small choir but it's very organized and it's very noisy. And Republicans feel that they have to pay attention to them, to advance their cause within the wider Republican Party. The danger for Republican candidates is that if you play only to that narrow part of their party, what happens when the general election comes along? But I've said this before. Tea Party has played the by the rules. They got organized, they got angry, and they got to where they are.
CURRY: In the meantime the New York Times is reporting this morning that the White House is currently trying to remake the image of the President. But, you know, given this deep pessimism, Tom, that we're seeing in the American populace - as evidenced in our most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll - I mean is it too late to remake the image of the President?
[On screen headline: "The Mood Of America, What Can Be Done To Boost Americans' Confidence?"]
BROKAW: Well in this shake and bake era in which we all live, you can reinvent yourself pretty quickly. But I think that, even among Democrats, especially after his decision about suspending some environmental rules recently, there are real questions about who is this guy? Which one is gonna show up this week? We've seen the cool arbiter. We've seen the guy who took a shot at trying to do something about the debt limit. And then on Labor Day he was the angry populist in Detroit. I think people are looking for a consistency from the White House and a consistent image from this president. I think that's a big part of it. His numbers are way down. People still like him but they don't think he's getting the job done on the economy and all the, all the indications are they're willing to trade him in for someone else.
CURRY: And all this while America is now getting ready, preparing to remember 9/11 ten years later. You know, we, we often have you on our broadcast to give us kind of a sense of the mood of America. Where is America now ten years after this great tragedy?
BROKAW: America is in a kind of an emotional bunker at the moment, wondering where in the world this country is going. I find that across the political spectrum, small towns and large. Who are we? Where are we gonna get to? And how are we gonna get there? I think this anniversary may be able to reignite some of the feeling that we had ten years ago that we're all in this together. I have a program on, on Friday night called "America Remembers." These are survivors and the widows and the family members of people who died. They are remarkable stories because it's all about will and about making my life better in memory of the people who died. I suppose that should be a kind of a natural calling for all of us.
CURRY: And a reminding of our true American grit.
BROKAW: Well that's true. And we have to be more than the sum of our parts. At the moment we are a deeply, deeply divided, Ann, across the landscape. And 9/11 will be a reminder of - that we're all in this together.
CURRY: Tom Brokaw, always great to have your perspective. Thank you, once again.
BROKAW: Okay, great to be here Ann.
CURRY: And you can see Tom's special "9/11 - America Remembers" on Friday night at 9:00 p.m, 8:00 Central time here on NBC. And you can also see tonight's NBC News/Politico 2012 Republican debate co-moderated by Brian Williams at 8:00 p.m Eastern on MSNBC.
- Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center. Click here  to follow Geoffrey Dickens on Twitter.