At the top of Wednesday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer declared: "In your face. The Tea Party puts its confrontational style on display during a stop on President Obama's bus tour." Later, chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd lamented how "uplifting moments" of Obama's Midwest tour were interrupted by "a bitter taste of the energy and confrontational style of the Tea Party."
Throughout Todd's report, the headline on screen read: "The Politics of Anger; Tea Party Tactics Change Race for President." Todd noted how: "For their part, the leading Republican presidential candidates are going out of their way to defend the Tea Party's in-your-face tactics." In a sound bite, The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza explained that Republicans, "want a candidate who is willing to fight President Obama on all fronts at all times. They want confrontation, not conciliation."
Todd cited recent comments from Texas Governor Rick Perry as evidence of Tea Party tactics being employed by GOP 2012 contenders: "Perry went after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, suggesting his policies bordered on treason. And Rick Perry this week questioned President Obama's lack of military experience."
Near the end of the segment, Todd made sure to point out a gaffe by Michele Bachmann, claiming that her efforts to "soften her image" had "backfired when she tried to showcase her love for Elvis Presley," noting that she wished the late rock star happy birthday on what was actually the anniversary of his death.
Here is a full transcript of the August 17 segment:
7:00AM ET TEASE:
MATT LAUER: In your face. The Tea Party puts its confrontational style on display during a stop on President Obama's bus tour. While the GOP's newest candidate Rick Perry is facing some criticism from both parties. We'll tell you why.
7:01AM ET TEASE:
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: And Texas Governor Rick Perry's only been in the race a couple of days and already he is drawing controversy.
LAUER: Yeah, there are a lot of cameras around him and we're going to tell you about what he said during a campaign stop in Iowa this week, it's drawing some criticism from both Democrats and Republicans. And normally wishing someone happy birthday doesn't get you into trouble but that's what happened to Michelle Bachmann during one of her campaign stops. We'll get the latest on that straight ahead as well.
7:01AM ET SEGMENT:
LAUER: Let us begin this morning, though, with the presidential race. The Tea Party and a controversial statement by Texas Governor Rick Perry. NBC's political director and chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd is in Davenport, Iowa, this morning. Hi, Chuck.
CHUCK TODD: Good morning, Matt. Look, the Tea Party, it's barely two years old, but one thing we've learned on this trip in Iowa and at the start of the 2012 presidential campaign is that they are going to be the most influential part in deciding which Republican takes on President Obama next November.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: The Politics of Anger; Tea Party Tactics Change Race for President]
For a president not always feeling a lot of love in the polls these days, this listening tour has had its uplifting moments.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It's my birthday.
BARACK OBAMA [HUGGING WOMAN]: Happy birthday.
TODD: But Mr. Obama has also been getting a bitter taste of the energy and confrontational style of the Tea Party.
TEA PARTY MEMBER [RYAN RHODES]: Why doesn't somebody pass a Balanced Budget Amendment? It's simple. We could pass that and nothing else.
OBAMA: It doesn't sound like you're interested in listening. It sounds like you're interested in a fight.
RHODES: You haven't listened either. You're blaming it on everyone but yourself.
TODD: For their part, the leading Republican presidential candidates are going out of their way to defend the Tea Party's in-your-face tactics.
RICK PERRY: I have heard people say, 'Now, wait a minute, you Tea Party types, y'all are angry.' We're not angry, we're indignant.
MICHELE BACHMANN: Rather than dissing the Tea Party, we should be praising the Tea Party.
TODD: Analysts believe Republicans have to appeal to the Tea Party in both substance and style.
CHRIS CILLIZZA [THE WASHINGTON POST]: The Republican primary electorate of 2011 and 2012 want a candidate who is willing to fight President Obama on all fronts at all times. They want confrontation, not conciliation.
TODD: This week, Rick Perry went after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, suggesting his policies bordered on treason.
PERRY: If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don't know what y'all would do to him in Iowa, but we would – we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. I mean, printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous – treasonous.
TODD: So Rick Perry went after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, suggesting his policies bordered on treason. And Rick Perry this week questioned President Obama's lack of military experience.
PERRY: The President had the opportunity to serve his country, I'm sure at some time. He made a decision that that wasn't what he wanted to do.
TODD: In an interview on CNN, Mr. Obama decided not to fight back.
BARACK OBAMA: I'll cut him some slack. He's only been at it for a few days.
TODD: While only 25% of all Americans consider themselves Tea Party supporters, they make up nearly half of all Republican primary voters. That presents a dilemma for Republican front-runner Mitt Romney. While he does not call himself a member of the Tea Party, he doesn't want to alienate them either.
MITT ROMNEY: The Tea Party has helped change the agenda in Washington. That's a good thing.
TODD: Still, Tea Party Republican Michele Bachmann has tried to soften her image somewhat. But on Tuesday it backfired when she tried to showcase her love for Elvis Presley, whose music she uses to enter and exit campaign rallies.
MICHELE BACHMANN: Before we get started, let's all say happy birthday to Elvis Presley today. Happy birthday!
TODD: Well, the problem, yesterday was Elvis' death day. Later on, Michele Bachmann's campaign, 'Hey, Elvis lives on in spirit.' No word, Matt, if she's going to start leaving tickets for Elvis at campaign rallies like a former football coach used to do for football games.
LAUER: Exactly. Chuck Todd in Iowa this morning. Chuck, thank you very much.