Vieira Repeats Democratic Line of the Day

NBC's Meredith Vieira opened Monday's Today show declaring, "Good morning. It passed. Congress approves historic legislation to reform health care" and then a few seconds later noted, "Democrats are using words like 'historic' to describe the sweeping overhaul that was approved." Interesting to see the Today co-anchor acknowledge the Democratic theme and still use it, something that was done throughout the ensuing health care segments.

NBC's White House correspondent Chuck Todd repeated the theme of the day, as he observed: "Soon after the vote, President Obama, who admitted that he was putting his own presidency on the line with health care, basked in the glow of victory...Following the historic vote, the Speaker of the House had an air of satisfaction.

Todd did note the Republican side of the issue but seemed to depict them as merely sore losers who will try to "gum up" the works of the legislation:

CHUCK TODD: A fiery House Republican leader, John Boehner, attempted to turn the loss into a rallying cry....Of course Republicans, Senate Republicans want to try to gum up the process a little bit this week.

Later on David Gregory credited Nancy Pelosi's "legislative grit" for getting the bill passed but did note the President "may have won the vote but he hasn't yet won the argument." However he continued to say Americans admire a President that goes "to the mat" even when it's for something they oppose. Vieira then repeated the results of last week's NBC News poll that gave the impression Americans were evenly divided on the bill.

DAVID GREGORY: So this is incredible social transformation, but this will be put to the test in terms of whether he can actually go out and campaign on this and win the argument. He may have won the vote but he hasn't yet won the argument and the President knows that. So he's gonna be spending yet more political capital trying to turn around public opinion.

VIEIRA: Yeah and what lesson will the President take away from this experience, as he tackles other big issues?

GREGORY: Again you talk to White House advisers, Meredith, and they say "You gotta fight hard for what you want." That's why he came to Washington. And it's true that Americans like that in their presidents. They like some fight. They like the willingness to, to go to the mat even when it looked particularly bleak. We know within the White House there were different points of view that he should have gone smaller, that he should have compromised. So now, I think, a lesson going forward is that you're gonna see the President, as one adviser said, do things as much in the open as he can, really try to challenge his critics and look for those areas where there is still the possibility of broader consensus.

VIEIRA: You know our last poll showed that Americans are divided over this health care reform bill. So what does this mean for Democrats and Republicans come November?

(On screen graphic of NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll reading: "Health Care Plan, Favor Passage 46 percent, Against Passage 45 percent")

The following Today opening and segments were aired on the March 22 Today show:

MEREDITH VIEIRA: Good morning. It passed. Congress approves historic legislation to reform health care.

(Footage of chants of "Yes We Can" from House floor)

BARACK OBAMA: I know this wasn't an easy vote for a lot of people, but it was the right vote.

VIEIRA: But Republicans, who voted unanimously against that bill, disagree.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER: Shame on us. Shame on this body. Shame on each and every one of you!

VIEIRA: Can a divided Congress ever repair the damage done by this long-fought battle?

...

MEREDITH VIEIRA: And welcome to Today on this Monday morning. I'm Meredith Vieira.

LESTER HOLT: And I'm Lester Holt in for Matt this morning. The health care bill approved late last night, way past our bedtime last night. Now if you look at the reaction this morning, you'll understand why things are divided as they are in Washington.

VIEIRA: Absolutely. Democrats are using words like "historic" to describe the sweeping overhaul that was approved, but Republicans are saying the bill does not reflect the will of most Americans.

HOLT: So what happens now? While one version of the bill now heads to Obama's desk the Senate still needs to approve a controversial package of changes, but Senate Republicans are promising to do what they can to derail and delay the process.

VIEIRA: We are covering this story from all angles this morning, including reaction from the White House and Capitol Hill. Let's begin with NBC's chief White House correspondent, Chuck Todd. Chuck, Good morning to you.

CHUCK TODD: Well good morning, Meredith. Well the President started this effort on health care just over a year ago, it was on the 44th day of his presidency. Now he's, here we are, a year later. Here we are, decades when, after the President and the Democratic Party made this promise. The process was messy, but we are now one signature away from it becoming law.

(Footage of "Yes We Can" chants on House floor)

TODD: Just before midnight, it was official.

REP. NANCY PELOSI: The yays are 220, the nays are 211. The bill is passed.

TODD: With no Republicans voting for it, Democrats pass the most expansive and ambitious effort to reshape how Americans receive and pay for health care.

BARACK OBAMA: At a time when the pundits said it was no longer possible, we rose above the weight of our politics.

TODD: Soon after the vote, President Obama, who admitted that he was putting his own presidency on the line with health care, basked in the glow of victory.

OBAMA: We didn't give in to mistrust or to cynicism or to fear. Instead, we proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things.

TODD: Following the historic vote, the Speaker of the House had an air of satisfaction.

PELOSI: Great pride and great humility that we undertook this great act of patriotism.

TODD: A fiery House Republican leader, John Boehner, attempted to turn the loss into a rallying cry.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER: Can you say it was done openly? With transparency and accountability? Without backroom deals and struck behind closed doors, hidden from the people? Hell no, you can't!

(On screen headline: "Historic Vote, House Passes Obama's Health Care Reform Bill")

TODD: The changes that will become law once the President signs both bills will be phased in over years. Some of the immediate changes include insurance companies can no longer drop patients that get sick, providers must offer free preventive care, there can be no caps on lifetime benefits and young adults can stay on their parents' policies until age 26. But the bulk of the changes to the system won't kick in for years, including by 2014, all Americans must have health insurance or pay a fine. Also in 2014, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny adults coverage for pre-existing conditions. The most noticeable tax increase begins in 2013. The Medicare payroll tax for individuals making more than $200,000 a year will go up nearly a percentage point, a 30 percent increase. It was the power of the presidency that put the Democrats over the top on Sunday afternoon with the White House striking a deal with the last handful of Democratic holdouts, who were led by Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak over the issue of abortion.

REP. BART STUPAK: Well I'm pleased to announce we have an agreement.

TODD: The President's chief lawyer, Bob Bauer, spent most of the weekend working with Stupak on how to word a presidential executive order, reaffirming Stupak's position that the bill should not allow federal money to be used for abortion procedures.

STUPAK: Make no doubt about it, there will be no public funds for abortion.

TODD: Later on the House floor, Stupak found himself heckled when someone shouted "baby killer."

(Barely audible audio of someone shouting: "He's a baby killer!")

TODD: Now, the entire issue is not yet settled. The House passed that Senate bill, which was passed last Christmas Eve, word for word. Then they did the second bill of reconciliation laws, fixes, if you will. The Senate takes that up beginning tomorrow. They have to pass that word for word for what the House did. Of course Republicans, Senate Republicans want to try to gum up the process a little bit this week. It's going to be a long week again. But, again, one part of the bill has passed and the President himself may actually sign it as soon as tomorrow.

...

MEREDITH VIEIRA: David Gregory is moderator of Meet the Press. David, good morning to you.

(On screen headline: "Historic Vote, How Will Obama's Health Care Win Change the Country?")

DAVID GREGORY: Good morning, Meredith.

VIEIRA: Take us through the process here, David. How did the White House pull Democrats together at the eleventh hour to get this done?

GREGORY: Well first of all you have legislative grit. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, knows how to deliver the votes and she worked credibly hard behind the scenes, she has the trust of her members. She went back to them, sometimes 10 times, to get this across the finish line. Second, you've got the power of the presidency. The President had 92 separate meetings or one-on-one meetings or phone call with wavering Democrats. That matters. That's a lot of pressure. Third, I talked to a senior White House official last night who said, "You know the loss in Massachusetts when Scott Brown was elected, that was a moment of clarity. Because finally Democrats had a real fear of failure, to help the President kind of get his game on, take control of the process, summons that intensity." It also brought Democrats together, in a way, where they could close ranks behind the idea even if this wasn't a perfect bill, everything they wanted, it was going to be this or nothing, perhaps.

VIEIRA: You know you talk about the political maneuvering of the President, did he expend all his political capital on this one issue?

GREGORY: Just about. I mean he certainly ran it all the way down. That's by his own admission by the first of the year. And don't forget this is all happening against the backdrop of a terrible economy and stubborn joblessness. He's gonna be accountable for that. So this is incredible social transformation, but this will be put to the test in terms of whether he can actually go out and campaign on this and win the argument. He may have won the vote but he hasn't yet won the argument and the President knows that. So he's gonna be spending yet more political capital trying to turn around public opinion.

VIEIRA: Yeah and what lesson will the President take away from this experience, as he tackles other big issues?

GREGORY: Again you talk to White House advisers, Meredith, and they say "You gotta fight hard for what you want." That's why he came to Washington. And it's true that Americans like that in their presidents. They like some fight. They like the willingness to, to go to the mat even when it looked particularly bleak. We know within the White House there were different points of view that he should have gone smaller, that he should have compromised. So now, I think, a lesson going forward is that you're gonna see the President, as one adviser said, do things as much in the open as he can, really try to challenge his critics and look for those areas where there is still the possibility of broader consensus.

VIEIRA: You know our last poll showed that Americans are divided over this health care reform bill. So what does this mean for Democrats and Republicans come November?

(On screen graphic of NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll reading: "Health Care Plan, Favor Passage 46 percent, Against Passage 45 percent")

GREGORY: It's gonna be an incredible, philosophical and ideological contest. The Democrats will be able to go out there and say, "We've achieved something. We actually have something to point to unlike 1994, where there was never a vote on health care, we actually have a victory." And they'll dare Republicans to take health care away from kids and others who need it most. Republicans will say this is quite simply government run amuck. We already have an environment here where the incumbents in Congress are facing a lot of history. And the White House knows they're gonna have a lot to answer for as the majority party. And the math may not really change. It still promises to be a very difficult year for Democrats. But now they feel they've got something to point to, as an accomplishment.

VIEIRA: Alright David Gregory, thank you so much.

GREGORY: Thanks Meredith.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.