On Tuesday's CBS Early Show, White House correspondent Bill Plante hyped an upcoming speech by President Obama: "The President is going to Osawatomie, Kansas....where former President Teddy Roosevelt made a famous speech more than a century ago...it was a call for economic fairness, not unlike the President's own argument for taxing millionaires to extend the payroll tax cuts." [Audio available here]
As Plante quoted Roosevelt's call for a "square deal" in 1910, the headline on screen read: "Channeling Teddy: Obama To Echo Historic Roosevelt Speech." A sound bite was included from liberal historian Douglas Brinkley declaring: "[Obama's] trying to paint the Republicans as sort of being anti-American, of being Grinch-like, being misers....He's got to reclaim the great American center right now, and the figure who speaks for the center is Theodore Roosevelt." [View video after the jump]
On NBC's Today, fill-in news anchor Savannah Guthrie similarly touted the supposed historic parallel: "President Obama hopes to invoke history today as he pressures Congress to extend the payroll tax cut that's set to expire at the end of the month. The President is speaking at a small Kansas town where President Theodore Roosevelt gave his famous speech demanding a square deal for the average citizen."
On Monday's NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams enthusiastically announced: "President Obama for his part threw down with congressional Republicans today over extending the payroll tax cut for another year." In the report that followed, White House correspondent Kristen Welker fretted: "Now, if those payroll tax cuts do expire, the average American family making about $50,000 every year would wind up paying about $1,000 more in taxes. Today, President Obama warned if Congress doesn't act, the economy could suffer."
In reality, the temporary 2% payroll tax cut did not provide any substantive economic stimulus, failing to create a single job over the past year. None of the network coverage pointed out that detail.
Despite that fact, on ABC's World News on Monday, White House correspondent Jake Tapper highlighted how, "the Obama administration feels as though they have a real winner of an issue here with Republicans on the defensive, on their heels for the first time in a long time."
Here is a full transcript of Plante's December 6 Early Show report:
CHRIS WRAGGE: Meanwhile, President Obama going to Kansas today to argue that Republicans are not doing enough to help average Americans.
REBECCA JARVIS: Senior White House correspondent Bill Plante has a preview of the President's speech. And good morning to you, Bill.
BILL PLANTE: And good morning to you, Rebecca. The President is going to Osawatomie, Kansas. It's a town of less than 5,000. He's going because that's where former President Teddy Roosevelt made a famous speech more than a century ago- a speech that put him at odds with his fellow Republicans because it was a call for economic fairness, not unlike the President's own argument for taxing millionaires to extend the payroll tax cuts.
[CBS News Graphic: "Channelling Teddy: Obama To Echo Historic Roosevelt Speech"]
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA (from press conference): How can you fight tooth and nail to protect high-end tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, and yet, barely left a finger to prevent taxes going up for 160 million Americans who really need the help? It doesn't make sense.
PLANTE (voice-over): Teddy Roosevelt was also calling for a more equal society 101 years ago in the age of the robber barons. 'When I say that I am for the square deal,' said Roosevelt, 'I mean not merely that I stand for fair play under the present rules of the game, but that I stand for having those rules changed, so as to work for a more substantial equality of opportunity.'
Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley says that's why Mr. Obama chose the same small town in Kansas to frame his message.
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: He's trying to paint the Republicans as sort of being anti-American, of being Grinch-like, being misers. And this is timed here with the holiday season, with the need for some, you know, tax breaks for the middle class. He's got to reclaim the great American center right now, and the figure who speaks for the center is Theodore Roosevelt.
PLANTE: As the President continues to pressure Congress, the White House unveiled a countdown clock on Monday, ticking away the days until the payroll tax cut expires at year's end. For weeks, President Obama has relentlessly slammed Republicans for their unwillingness to increase taxes on the very wealthy, to pay for extending that tax cut.
OBAMA: So my message to Congress is this: keep your word to the American people and don't raise taxes on them right now. Now's not the time to slam on the brakes. Now is the time to step on the gas.
PLANTE (on-camera): Now, Kansas is a red state, of course. No Democrat has won there since '64. But the point is that the President's goal is to paint himself as the populist candidate, a champion of the middle class. Chris? Rebecca?
JARVIS: CBS's Bill Plante at the White House- thanks, Bill.