In what was perhaps a move to make Barack Obama appear more moderate than he is, NBC's Kelly O'Donnell, on Thursday's Today show, played up a "rift" between him and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid over government spending. In her piece, O'Donnell hyped that Reid was "calling out the White House" on his State of the Union claim that he would veto any bill with earmarks in it.
The NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent featured an interview she had with Reid in which the Nevada senator claimed Obama was merely going for "an applause line" when he criticized pork barrel spending and charged that the President "should just back off. He's got enough to do without messing in what we do."
The following is a transcript of the full story as it was aired on the January 27 Today show:
MATT LAUER: The snow wasn't the only storm to hit Washington on Wednesday. President Obama faced some heated criticism over something he said in the State of the Union Address. And the criticism came from members of his own party. NBC's Capitol Hill correspondent Kelly O'Donnell has details on that. Kelly, good morning.
[On screen headline: "'Back Off" Reid Blasts Obama For Targeting Earmarks"]
KELLY O'DONNELL: Hi there, Matt. Well there's a different kind of ice forming on a relationship here. Sure, you'd expect criticism of the President from Republicans in Congress but one of Mr. Obama's top allies here, the most important Democrat in the Senate, is upset and speaking out.
SEN. HARRY REID, NEVADA-D: But the President thinks this will help him a little bit. You know, more power to him. It's just wrong.
O'DONNELL: With no hesitation Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid is calling out the White House, over one issue, in one paragraph of the State of the Union.
BARACK OBAMA: And because the American people deserve to know that special interests aren't larding up legislation with pet projects, both parties in Congress should know this. If a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside I will veto it. I will veto it.
O'DONNELL: Is the President wrong when it comes to earmarks?
REID: Of course. This is an applause line. It's an effort of a White House to get more power. They've got enough power, as it is.
O'DONNELL: Reid's complaint is that the President is trying to undercut the power of an equal branch of government. Congress uses earmarks to send federal money back home for special projects.
REID: I know much more of what needs to be done in Elkhorn, Nevada, Las Vegas, Nevada, than some bureaucrat does back here.
O'DONNELL: As popular as those pet projects often are with voters at home, past abuses have made earmarks politically radioactive.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ARIZONA-R: Stop the earmarking! Stop the spending! Stop the outrageous pork barrel projects.
O'DONNELL: But the White House uses earmarks too for its own favorite projects. Reid is irked because the President only threatened Congress.
REID: He should just back off. He's got enough to do without messing in what we do.
O'DONNELL: But Reid predicts earmarks will make a comeback.
REID: Short term he may win this battle, but it will be short term. It means nothing for the debt.
O'DONNELL: And Reid said this is really overkill because Congress has taken some steps to fix problems that led to abuses of earmarks. And I did ask him if this whole fight has caused a rift with the President and he said, "No it has not." Matt?
LAUER: I'm not sure about that. Kelly O'Donnell in Washington, this morning. Thank you very much. Pretty blunt talk, though.
MEREDITH VIEIRA: Yeah very blunt talk.
—Geoffrey Dickens is the Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here