NBC's Vieira Congratulates Tax Hikers for Their 'Courage'

NBC's Meredith Vieira, on Monday's Today show, gave Caroline Kennedy her annual spot on the air to honor the latest liberal heroes to win the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, this year given to California legislators who demonstrated the "courage" to raise taxes as a solution to that state's budget crisis. Kennedy spoke to Vieira, along with award winners California State Senators Darrell Steinberg and Dave Codgill, but it was the Republican, Codgill, who was singled out by the Today co-anchor for his willingness to cross party lines as Vieira asked: "You're a Republican. You reached across to the Democrats. As a result, the voters rejected the compromise and your own party voted you out of your leadership position. So in retrospect, was it worth it, Dave?"

As for Steinberg, Vieira didn't press the California Democratic leader that perhaps his party needed to cut spending more, instead of raising taxes, and in fact worried about his ability to stay in the fight: "But the budget deficit is at $20 billion. How do you stay motivated?"

At the end of the segment Vieira honored the tax raisers as she hailed: "Well congratulations to both of you on your courage."

The following is a transcript of the full segment as it was aired on the May 24 Today show:

AL ROKER: The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award honors public servants go above and beyond duty. Well this year the award honors the leaders of the California legislature who showed bipartisanship last year in reaching a compromise over the struggling California economy. Earlier this morning, Meredith spoke with Caroline Kennedy, the president of the Kennedy Library Foundation, along with two of the winners, David Cogdill a former California Senate Minority Leader and Darrell Steinberg, the Senate President Pro Tempore. Meredith asked Caroline why she chose to honor bipartisanship and these two men in particular?

CAROLINE KENNEDY: Well I think everybody recognizes that our country has serious problems and that we're only going to be able to solve them if we work together. And I think we thought that these California legislators set an example for lawmakers across the country and also for all Americans who really should recognize how difficult it is to forge compromises to solve these difficult problems and try to reward the legislators who have the courage to do so.

MEREDITH VIEIRA: You know Dave, you discovered how, both of you actually discovered how difficult it is to reach across the aisle and compromise. You're a Republican. You reached across to the Democrats. As a result, the voters rejected the compromise and your own party voted you out of your leadership position. So in retrospect, was it worth it, Dave?

DAVE COGDILL, FORMER CALIFORNIA SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Oh, I think so, given what we were facing. The options weren't certainly any better. And I think, in many ways, were very much worse. So I think we did the right thing and we're all a little bit disappointed that the voters didn't approve the compromise that we put forward relating to the reforms that we thought were so important. But, again, I think history will, will prove out that what we did was the right thing to do.

VIEIRA: And Darrell, you remain leader of the, of the Democratic majority in the California senate. But the budget deficit is at $20 billion. How do you stay motivated?

DARRELL STEINBERG, CALIFORNIA SENATE PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE: Well, I'll tell you, it isn't easy. I have to go through this a second time, but more than anything else, it's actually a privilege and an honor to be fighting to make California better. We're living through historic times. And we have an opportunity to change what we know is broken. And last year, as difficult as it was, and as much heat as all of us have taken, I wouldn't, I wouldn't do it any different. We were able to cross party lines and show that you can be both partisan and fight for what you believe in and, at the same time, act in a bipartisan way to put the state or the country ahead of our own, our own personal beliefs and ideology. And that's a tough balance but it's absolutely essential in a democracy.

VIEIRA: Well congratulations to both of you on your courage. Caroline Kennedy, Dave Cogdill and Darrell Steinberg, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

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