NBC Commiserates with 'Hard Realities' Obama 'Up Against'

Prompted by the CBO's forecast of a $1.2 trillion annual federal budget deficit, the NBC Nightly News on Wednesday commiserated with the challenge ahead for the incoming President. “On our broadcast tonight, facing facts,” Brian Williams teased, “President-elect Obama confronts the hard realities he's up against, deficits as far as the eye can see.” A dire Williams proceeded to lead with how Obama will take over “during one of the most challenging times in the modern history of the United States.”

From the White House lawn, Chuck Todd piled on: “You know, it's becoming a cliche to say that the problems Obama is inheriting are among the worst ever, but I tell you, the realities of the situation on the economy hit home hard today. As Obama took the podium, he was greeted by the dire news that before he spends one dollar to stimulate the economy, he'll be adding to a deficit that is now 13 digits long...”

Do you think Ronald Reagan got such empathetic treatment in January of 1981 when he was about to assume office at a time of soaring interest rates, raging inflation (12%), high unemployment (7.5%) and a declining GDP? Or, just maybe the media were more concerned about his proposed “tax cuts for the rich”?

NBC's theme was echoed, though less dramatically, on ABC and CBS. After reporting on the White House gathering of all the living Presidents and Obama, ABC anchor Charles Gibson asked:
What did they talk about? Well, most certainly, the economy. Probably just as certain, none of the others envies the President-elect, who is about to confront a stagnant economy and the largest budget deficit in history, over one trillion dollars.
Over on the CBS Evening News, Katie Couric set up a full story:
Barack Obama is already dealing with the biggest problem he'll face as President, the deepening recession. A new report today says employers cut nearly700,000 jobs last month, far more than economists were expecting. And then there's the federal deficit. The Congressional Budget Office predicted today it will reach a record $1.2 trillion this year.
From the Wednesday, January 7 NBC Nightly News:
TEASE FROM BRIAN WILLIAMS: On our broadcast tonight, facing facts. President-elect Obama confronts the hard realities he's up against, deficits as far as the eye can see, while also watching that new war in the Middle East...

WILLIAMS, WITH “TROUBLE AHEAD” ON SCREEN, PICKING UP AFTER VIDEO OF THE PRESIDENTS IN THE OVAL OFFICE: Barack Obama, will take over, of course, during one of the most challenging times in the modern history of the United States. He made clear again today the numbers are worsening on the economy, the task is getting more serious. That's where we'll begin tonight with our chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd at the White House. Chuck, good evening.

CHUCK TODD: Good evening, Brian. You know, it's becoming a cliche to say that the problems Obama is inheriting are among the worst ever, but I tell you, the realities of the situation on the economy hit home hard today. As Obama took the podium, he was greeted by the dire news that before he spends one dollar to stimulate the economy, he'll be adding to a deficit that is now 13 digits long...
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center