In a series of reports following President Obama's Wednesday afternoon press conference, NBC News repeatedly portrayed Obama as a magnanimous victor "reaching out" to his opponents, while Republicans were tarred as uncooperative and on the attack.
On Wednesday's Nightly News, chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd nearly ran out of positive adjectives to describe the President's demeanor at the presser: "It was a loose, confident, and at times aggressive President Obama....He even extended an olive branch and encouraged growing common ground between the two parties....he was genial and even reflective."
According to Todd's account, the only thing that spoiled Obama's sunny disposition was having to respond to "negative comments from Republican senators on the possibility that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice could become secretary of state." Comments that made the commander-in-chief "visibly angry."
NBC zeroed-in on Arizona Senator John McCain for his criticism of Rice's misleading statements about the Benghazi terrorist attack. Todd dismissed him as Obama's "old presidential rival" and Capitol Hill correspondent Kelly O'Donnell labeled the back and forth just "the latest chapter in what has been a contentious history between the President and John McCain."
Todd explained that despite the President's "tough words" for McCain, he was "very conciliatory toward Mitt Romney." Moments later on the evening news program, anchor Brian Williams noted that observation while ominously telling viewers that Romney's "first post-campaign remarks are surfacing....What he said about what went wrong is already getting some attention tonight."
Correspondent Peter Alexander followed: "Governor Romney blamed this defeat on what he described as 'big gifts,' that was his word, that the President had given to some of the Democrats' most loyal voting blocs. Among them, African-Americans, young voters, and Hispanics."
McCain and Romney continued to be targets on Thursday's Today, with Todd proclaiming: "President Obama thought he was going to be using his first post-election press conference to make his case on the fiscal cliff and also to show a new reaching out to Republicans. Instead, he found himself on the receiving end of criticism, from not one, but two former presidential rivals."
Obama reiterated his pledge to sit down with his former rival, Governor Mitt Romney, even offering him praise....But while the President was paying him compliments, Mitt Romney was telling donors on a conference call a different story. Romney said he was "sorry that we didn't win" and he blamed his defeat on "gifts" the President had given to his most loyal voters, including African-Americans, young voters, and Hispanics. Mr. Romney said the President followed the "old playbook" and "with regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift," adding, "free contraceptives were very big with young college-aged women." As for the Hispanic voters said Romney, "free health care was a big plus."
On McCain, Todd painted opposition by him and other Republican senators to Ambassador Rice as whining: "Their chief gripe, they believe she disqualified herself several days after the Benghazi attack with her explanation of what happened."
Following Todd's Today report, co-host Matt Lauer grilled McCain on his criticism of Rice:
> Well, you are taking someone on, Senator. You've said, you've come out and said, "I will do everything in my power to block Ambassador Rice from being United States Secretary of State. She's proven she either doesn't understand or she's not willing to accept evidence on its face." All I'm asking is why make a bold comment like that before these hearings on Benghazi have been carried out? Might you not learn something over the next day or so that might open your eyes and change your opinion?
> Let me ask your comments on some comparisons that some liberal advocates are making. They say back in 2005, when you supported the nomination of Condoleezza Rice for Secretary of State, she had made that comment that when it came to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, the smoking gun might be a mushroom cloud. As we now know, Iraq didn't have stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. But she was commenting based on the information she had at the time. You said opponents of Condoleezza Rice were expressing sour grapes after an election loss. Why is this different?
Here is a full transcript of Todd's November 14 Nightly News report:
7:00PM ET TEASE:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: The President making his case for the second term and showing real anger as a member of his team comes under attack.
7:04PM ET SEGMENT:
WILLIAMS: Now back to the President's news conference today, which covered a lot of ground and at times got both heated and personal. Our political director and chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd was there for it, he's with us from the White House tonight. Chuck, good evening.
CHUCK TODD: Good evening, Brian. Look, despite predictions to the contrary, no one topic dominated the back and forth. The President made his case for tax hikes, didn't have a lot to say on the Petraeus scandal. But he became the most animated when asked to respond to a criticism from an old rival, John McCain. It was a loose...
BARACK OBAMA: Good afternoon, everybody.
TODD: ...confident, and at times aggressive President Obama, in his first press conference since winning a second term. His main goal, making the case that the public fully supports tax hikes on the rich.
OBAMA: Every voter out there understood that that was an important debate, and the majority of voters agreed with me. By the way, more voters agreed with me on this issue than voted for me.
TODD: He also made it clear that the Bush-era tax cuts for the top 2% will go away, but he left wiggle room on how new tax revenues will be configured.
OBAMA: What I'm not going to do, is to extend further a tax cut for folks who don't need it.
TODD: He even extended an olive branch and encouraged growing common ground between the two parties.
OBAMA: I'm open to compromise and I'm open to new ideas.
TODD: After an opening statement, Mr. Obama immediately faced questions about how the Petraeus scandal has affected his White House.
OBAMA: I have no evidence at this point, from what I've seen, that classified information was disclosed that in any way would have had a negative impact on our national security.
TODD: And the President refused to pass judgment on the investigation.
OBAMA: I am withholding judgment with respect to how the entire process surrounding General Petraeus came up.
TODD: The real fireworks came when the President was asked about negative comments from Republican senators on the possibility that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice could become secretary of state.
JOHN MCCAIN: We will do whatever is necessary to block the nomination that's within our power, as far as Susan Rice is concerned.
LINDSEY GRAHAM: I don't trust her. And the reason I don't trust her is because I think she knew better, and if she didn't know better, she shouldn't be the voice of America.
TODD: Graham was referring to Rice's appearance on Meet the Press days after the Benghazi attack.
SUSAN RICE: But this is a spontaneous reaction to a video.
TODD: Today, the President was visibly angry.
OBAMA: If Senator John McCain, and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. But for them to go after the U.N. Ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi, and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received, and to besmirch her reputation, is outrageous.
TODD: Overall, though, he was genial and even reflective.
OBAMA: I'm more than familiar with all the literature about presidential overreach in second terms. On the other hand, I didn't get re-elected just to bask in re-election.
TODD: While the President had some tough words for his old presidential rival, John McCain, he actually was very conciliatory toward Mitt Romney. He reiterated his hope that they would sit down. He said there was actually a lot of ideas that Mitt Romney said on the campaign that he agrees with, Brian.
WILLIAMS: Chuck Todd at the White House. Chuck, thanks.