NBC: 'Can Anything Be Done to Save Our Government from Itself?'

At the top of Thursday's NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams issued a dire warning to viewers about the possibility of a government shutdown: "Time running out until a big deadline, now days away, and it's getting ugly in Washington. Tonight, can anything be done to save our government from itself?" [Listen to the audio]

Introducing the later report, Williams again hyped how "the tone is getting uglier than normal in Washington, as lawmakers argue over funding the health care law." Chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd made it clear which party was being "ugly": "Another day of dysfunction and squabbling here in Washington as the clock ticks down for the potential government shutdown. Republicans trying to defund the President's health care law to do this shutdown."

Todd described an "exasperated" President Obama slamming Congress during a stump speech earlier in the day and lamented: "Tea Party Republicans Ted Cruz and Mike Lee continued to delay the potential compromise, angering members of their own party."

Touting new polling data, Todd announced: "And the public's mad. 80% of Americans said they oppose the tactic of using a government shutdown for political leverage."

On Friday's Today, reporting from Mount Vernon on the opening of the George Washington Presidential Library, Todd concluded his report by noting: "Given that we're 14 miles from the capital and all the craziness of the shutdown talk, the theme of a lot of the talk here today is gonna be Washington might not have let this happen."

Earlier on the morning show, White House correspondent Peter Alexander joined Williams and Todd in their hand-wringing over a possible shutdown: "...this thing is clearly a mess at this point....With the country teetering on the brink of a government shutdown, tensions are boiling over."

Alexander seized on GOP division: "The Senate...is gonna vote today on its plan to try to avoid a shutdown. But House Republicans have already said they're simply not buying this...A rare fight between Republicans on the Senate floor."

Continuing his fearmongering from Thursday, Alexander desperately grasped at any potential negative impact from a hypothetical government shutdown:

With just three days left for Washington to avert a shutdown, D.C.'s dysfunction is already having a ripple effect across the country. The manager of this beachfront bike shop near Camp Pendleton, outside San Diego, says a customer who's in the Navy and fears he might not get paid in a shutdown recently asked for a refund on a brand new scooter....The point is this is already effecting people. Even if Congress can avoid this potential catastrophe in just a few days, there is already another one looming, it's a few weeks away, over the nation's borrowing limit. Where the consequences...including a shock to economy, would be much greater. This would be a default, this would be significant.

Here is a full transcript of the September 26 Nightly News segment:

7:00PM ET TEASE:

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Time running out until a big deadline, now days away, and it's getting ugly in Washington. Tonight, can anything be done to save our government from itself?

7:04PM ET SEGMENT:

WILLIAMS: Back in this country, specifically the nation's capital, the tone is getting uglier than normal in Washington, as lawmakers argue over funding the health care law. Leaving the country just days from a possible government shutdown that polling shows most Americans do not support. Our chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd following it all from our D.C. newsroom tonight. Chuck, good evening.

CHUCK TODD: Good evening, Brian. Another day of dysfunction and squabbling here in Washington as the clock ticks down for the potential government shutdown. Republicans trying to defund the President's health care law to do this shutdown. But guess what? Even if they avert the shutdown, it's a deal that will actually cost you more money.

At a rally in suburban Maryland today, an exasperated president.

BARACK OBAMA: We're not going to submit to this kind of total irresponsibility. Congress needs to pay our bills on time, Congress needs to pass a budget on time, Congress needs to put an end to governing from crisis to crisis.

TODD: The Republican speaker, just as frustrated.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER [R-SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE]: Now the President says, "I'm not going to negotiate." Well, I'm sorry, but it just doesn't work that way.

TODD: And time is running out.

SEN. HARRY REID [D-MAJORITY LEADER]: Every hour that ticks by puts our country closer to a shutdown.

TODD: Tea Party Republicans Ted Cruz and Mike Lee continued to delay the potential compromise, angering members of their own party.

SEN. BOB CORKER [R-TN]: It's not the Republican side that's asking to stall. We only have two Republican senators that are wanting to push this off.

TODD: Still, whatever short-term compromise is made, it will cost taxpayers extra money. Here's why. The government saves money when it buys things in bulk, like ordinary people do at a big box grocery store. But short-term spending bills, like the one Congress is about to pass, means the government has to pay higher, retail-like prices.

BILL HOAGLAND [BIPARTISAN POLICY CENTER]: It is a very poor way of a government, let alone a household, to operate.

TODD: And the public's mad. 80% of Americans said they oppose the tactic of using a government shutdown for political leverage.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: They really need to get their act together. They're like children.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I'm sick of Congress, both sides, either way. Just decide what you're gonna do.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN B: It seems irresponsible and I think we want more from our elected officials.

TODD: Experts say the larger problem is that Congress hasn't agreed on a real budget for four years, forcing these political standoffs and stop-gap spending bills.

MAYA MACGUINEAS [COMMITTEE FOR A RESPONSIBLE FEDERAL BUDGET]: And we just kind of budget by automatic continuing resolutions, which is a mindless way to do it. It doesn't pick and choose your priorities. It doesn't say what should we fund more of, and importantly, what should we get rid of.

TODD: And even if we get past Monday's shutdown deadline, Brian, another one looms. Of course our nation's credit card is about to be cancelled October 17th, the government won't be able to borrow money if they don't raise the debt ceiling. So it'll be a whole, here we go again.

WILLIAMS: Chuck Todd in our D.C. newsroom with all of it tonight. Chuck, thanks.

— Kyle Drennen is News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.