Nightly News   |  March 24, 2010

'Passionate debate' dictates careful treading

Amid heated debate over the passage of health care reform, President Obama signed an executive order Wednesday making clear the new health care law does not allow federal funding of abortion. NBC's Savannah Guthrie reports.

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>> the capitol.

>>> this is savannah guthrie at the white house where the president's spokesman said passionate views over health care shouldn't turn violent.

>> we ought to exercise those views, not in a way that threatens anybody's safety or security or foments violence.

>> wait a minute, wait a minute.

>> reporter: washington 's epic 14-month battle over health care has exposed an angry side of america .

>> kill the bill!

>> reporter: and the fault lines of a fundamental philosophical divide. how big government should be and how involved in people's lives. the back drop of wall street bailouts and main street suffering only sharpening the break.

>> this is an argument that goes all the way back to the founding of the country. during times of economic distress, this argument, which is always simmering, explodes. we saw it in the 1930s and we're seeing it again today.

>> reporter: wrapped around the brick that smashed the door of democratic party headquarters in rochester, new york , a note with the barry goldwater quote, "extreme number in defense of liberty is no vice." on twitter, sarah palin told followers, "don't retreat, relead." while an alabama man advocated uprising.

>> the mussels of 3 million rifles that can be pointed at the heart of anyone who wants to be a tyrant in this country.

>> reporter: at the tea party protest at the capital this weekend, some demonstrators threw racially and sexually-charged insults at members of the congress. karl rove suggested these are the growing pains of a burgeoning political movement .

>> some times the rhetoric is raw and angry. that it's down side. the up side is a large number of people have been spectators have been motivated by deep concern in our country to get involved in politics.

>> reporter: the president today signed an executive order designed to prove and show that the new health care law does not allow for federal funding of abortion. that was key to that last-minute deal with anti-abortion democrats that put health care reform over the line . brian?

>> savannah guthrie along with kelly o'donnell reporting our lead story tonight. thanks to you both. one more note on this