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NBC's Williams Ready to Move On: 'It's Tough to Know the Staying Power of Any Given Scandal'

On Thursday's NBC Nightly News, after proclaiming President Obama to be "on the offensive" amid growing scandals, anchor Brian Williams hinted at those controversies being only temporary setbacks for Obama: "And some folks are already calling the President's problems the curse of the second term. And yet it's tough to know the staying power of any given scandal in the making, along with the effect any of this might have on his overall planned agenda." [Listen to the audio]

This is the same Brian Williams who in February quipped that Florida Senator Marco Rubio taking a sip of water during a response to the President's State of the Union address was a moment "that just might live on forever."

In the report that followed on Thursday, correspondent Andrea Mitchell began by bringing in former Clinton Defense Secretary William Cohen to dispel any comparison between Barack Obama and Richard Nixon: "Cohen voted to impeach Nixon and says the IRS affair is not Watergate."

Cohen declared: "If that were directed by the President or those directly under him and he was aware of that, now you're talking about a comparison that would be, in fact, valid. And I don't think that's the case."

While noting that Obama "often sounds more like observer than chief executive" and how "even former aides say President Obama was slow to act," Mitchell settled on the reason for the President's incompetence being "partly a matter of style, famously no-drama Obama."

A sound bite followed of NBC's resident liberal presidential historian Michael Beschloss gushing: "[Obama] doesn't let himself get distracted, he tends to be very centered and focused, sometimes in almost a zen way."

Noting problems for past second-term presidents, Mitchell observed: "The Obama team seems confident its second-term problems will blow over, despite warning signs."

A clip then followed of National Journal's Ron Fournier advising Obama: "When you're under siege, when your whole legislative agenda and your legacy are in danger of being swallowed up by conspiracy theorists, that's when you have to be more direct and more aggressive."

Despite that selective quote from Fournier, an examination of his recent articles shows him being quite tough on the administration over the scandals, strange that Mitchell couldn't manage to employ some of his more critical reporting.

Friday's Today highlighted Obama's effort to "move past" the scandals.  

Here is a full transcript of Mitchell's May 16 report:

7:11AM ET

BRIAN WILLIAMS: And some folks are already calling the President's problems the curse of the second term. And yet it's tough to know the staying power of any given scandal in the making, along with the effect any of this might have on his overall planned agenda. That story tonight from NBC's Andrea Mitchell.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Controversies on all sides. Republicans, and even some Democrats, at the gates. And a president who often sounds more like observer than chief executive.

BARACK OBAMA: I first learned about it from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this.

MITCHELL: There's already pressure for a special counsel to investigate the IRS and unflattering comparisons to Richard Nixon. William Cohen voted to impeach Nixon and says the IRS affair is not Watergate.

WILLIAM COHEN [FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE]: If that were directed by the President or those directly under him and he was aware of that, now you're talking about a comparison that would be, in fact, valid. And I don't think that's the case.

MITCHELL: But doesn't the buck stop in the Oval Office?

OBAMA: Americans are right to be angry about it. And I am angry about it.

MITCHELL: Even former aides say President Obama was slow to act.

ROBERT GIBBS [FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY]: I think they could have reacted more quickly to these events. Demonstrated more concern and more anger.

MITCHELL: It's partly a matter of style, famously no-drama Obama.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS [NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN]: He doesn't let himself get distracted, he tends to be very centered and focused, sometimes in almost a zen way.

MITCHELL: And some fault the President for not making friends in Washington sooner with Democrats or Republicans.

OBAMA: Why don't you get a drink with Mitch McConnell, they ask. Really? Why don't you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?

[LAUGHTER]

MITCHELL: After Iran-Contra, Ronald Reagan shook up his staff to regain control.

RONALD REAGAN: A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages.

MITCHELL: Bill Clinton had to overcome impeachment. George W. Bush, the Iraq War and  failure to reform Social Security. The Obama team seems confident its second-term problems will blow over, despite warning signs.

RON FOURNIER [NATIONAL JOURNAL]: When you're under siege, when your whole legislative agenda and your legacy are in danger of being swallowed up by conspiracy theorists, that's when you have to be more direct and more aggressive.

MITCHELL: Tonight, signs that the message may be sinking in. Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington.