In a report for Tuesday's NBC Today, chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd touted President Obama supposedly being nicer to the GOP while in pursuit of a fiscal cliff deal: "Mr. Obama was noticeably less confrontational toward Republicans....The President's softer tone came just a day after he sat down with House Speaker John Boehner..."
While Todd focused on Obama's "softer" side, Monday's New York Times reported on the President's team playing hardball: "The White House is also cranking up the machinery of the Obama campaign to help in the battle. On Monday, the campaign sent an e-mail to its entire mailing list from its deputy manager, Stephanie Cutter....'Who will decide if your taxes increase in just 22 days?' Ms. Cutter said. 'A few dozen members of the House of Representatives, that's who.'"
Seeking to separate the President from nasty Democratic Party rhetoric, Todd announced: "But as the President dials back his rhetoric, the campaign arm of the House Democrats is doing just the opposite, unveiling this not so subtle petition, GOPHostageTakers.com, accusing Republicans of protecting the wealthy from tax hikes."
At the top of the Today segment, Todd asserted: "...another way to judge how serious the talks are this week, the President has no public events today, doesn't have many planned for this week. And many at the White House and in Congress believe the less anybody campaigns publicly, the better their chances are at striking an actual deal."
Todd then immediately promoted the President's latest public campaigning on the issue: "President Obama back on the road Monday, trying to wield his political capital to get the deal he wants on the fiscal cliff."
Todd began pushing the "softer" Obama talking point on Nightly News Monday night: "Mr. Obama was less confrontational today, signaling that the time for posturing may be over....Today's conciliatory tone comes a day after the President and Republican House Speaker John Boehner had their first one-on-one meeting in 18 months."
After Todd's Today report, news reader Natalie Morales kept the theme going during news briefs at the top of the 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. et hours: "On Monday, the President softened his public criticism of congressional Republicans....The President is dialing back his rhetoric in his latest bid to find common ground with Republicans and avoid the fiscal cliff."
Here is a full transcript of Todd's December 11 Today report:
7:01AM ET TEASE:
MATT LAUER: Also, you may have noticed that in the recent couple of days the tone has softened a bit there in Washington, especially on the subject of the fiscal cliff. Some tea leaf readers are speculating that could mean a deal is in the works. Could it come by the end of the week? We'll have more on that subject as well.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: The clock is ticking.
7:03AM ET SEGMENT:
LAUER: Negotiations to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff seem to be intensifying this morning. Chuck Todd is NBC's chief White House correspondent. Chuck, good morning.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Towards a Cliff Compromise; Will Congress Be Home for Christmas?]
CHUCK TODD: Good morning, Matt. You know, in another way to judge how serious the talks are this week, the President has no public events today, doesn't have many planned for this week. And many at the White House and in Congress believe the less anybody campaigns publicly, the better their chances are at striking an actual deal.
BARACK OBAMA: It is good to see everybody in the great state of Michigan.
TODD: President Obama back on the road Monday, trying to wield his political capital to get the deal he wants on the fiscal cliff.
OBAMA: All Congress needs to do is pass a law that would prevent a tax hike on the first $250,000 of everybody's income.
TODD: But Mr. Obama was noticeably less confrontational toward Republicans.
OBAMA: I understand this is – you know, people have a lot of different views. I'm willing to compromise a little bit.
TODD: The President's softer tone came just a day after he sat down with House Speaker John Boehner, the first one-on-one meeting between the two men in 18 months. The details of which were kept secret to give them the freedom to negotiate without political interference.
But as the President dials back his rhetoric, the campaign arm of the House Democrats is doing just the opposite, unveiling this not so subtle petition, GOPHostageTakers.com, accusing Republicans of protecting the wealthy from tax hikes.
The enemy now may be the calendar. To avoid the slew of tax hikes and spending cuts from taking effect on January 1st, leaders in Washington need to pass their agreement by Friday, December 21st if they want to be home for Christmas. To make that self-imposed deadline, Boehner and the President have to agree on a framework by the end of this week for it to work its way through Congress in time next week. Veterans of other budget battles are now optimistic about the tone and timing of the meeting between the President and the Speaker.
ERSKINE BOWLES: Oh, gosh, I think all you've got to do is look at the atmospherics. I'm more optimistic now, Chuck, I really am, now that they've been meeting.
TODD: But there's more work to do, some Republicans doubt the White House is that serious about cutting spending.
KEVIN MCCARTHY [REP. R-CA]: I don't think Republicans or Americans want to raise any taxes just to continue the spending in Washington.
TODD: The talks now revolve around three big sticking points. Tax rates, the White House wants them raised on the wealthy but is willing to negotiate by how much. Entitlement reform, including changing how and at what age folks receive Medicare and Social Security. And the debt ceiling, the President wants more unilateral power to raise the country's virtual credit card limit with less input from Congress.
The best I understand, though, is that they're actually closer on taxes and entitlements than on the debt ceiling, Matt. That seems to be the biggest sticking point. The White House is determined to get it out of the political arena. Republicans are not ready to get rid of that leverage and – that they would have in February in exchange for what they'll agree to on taxes.
LAUER: Alright, Chuck Todd in Washington. Chuck, keep us posted. Thank you very much.