Nightly News   |  March 01, 2013

Obama: Sequester ‘not going to be an apocalypse’

President Obama said Friday that even though the $85 billion in federal spending cuts are “going to hurt,” the country will get through it. NBC’s Chuck Todd reports.

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>>> good evening. and as america heads into the weekend, with americans planning to live their lives as usual, through no fault of theirs, tonight a series of budget cuts will begin. while we've been warned about this for days, while we've been told by the attorney general and the head of homeland security our nation will be less safe starting this weekend, congress has left town, the dire warnings didn't quite have the effect the white house had hoped for. there's not a profile and courage to be found in washington these days and the president seemed to be changing his tune today. all of it just a preview of the next fight over a full government shutdown. our chief white house correspondent, chuck todd , starts us off on a friday night. chuck, good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian. so admit night tonight, about $85 billion of budget cuts across the board, defense spending and domestic spending, they kick in. in other words, one last meeting this morning between the president and bipartisan group of congressional leaders. but it was really done for show. because make no mistake, there was no serious attempt all week long to actually put a stop to this so-called sequester budget cut. after a week of relentless and dire warnings by his administration --

>> look, i don't think we can maintain the same level of security.

>> and the american people are going to be less safe.

>> reporter: the president substantially changed the administration's tune.

>> this is not going to be a apocalyp apocalypse, as some people have said. it's just dumb. and it's going to hurt.

>> reporter: and as new secretary of defense avoided alarmist language today.

>> and we will do what we need to do to assure the capabilities of our forces.

>> reporter: still, the president didn't exactly rise above the political rhetoric.

>> beginning this week, many middle class families will have their lives disrupted in significant ways.

>> reporter: meanwhile, away from the noise of little washington , sequester fears are real. from military bases in maryland.

>> i try not to curse, but i've been cursing under my breath, trying to figure out how i'm going to get through this.

>> reporter: to federally funded shelters in ohio.

>> it is of great concern. the emergency shelter is funded with federal dollars.

>> reporter: the white house axe homeland security has releases hundreds of undocumented immigrants as a result of the budget cut. and the air force is grounding the world-famous thunder birds . but the broad impact won't be feltd for a while, if ever. one immediate effect, advertising effects at d.c. burger joints.

>> only in washington could you have a burger joint do a deal around automatic federal spending cuts.

>> reporter: parks, museums, airports and buildings, hummed along, even as both sides maintained the blame game.

>> it's happening because a choice that republicans in congress have made. they have allowed these cuts to happen because they refuse to budge on closing a single wasteful loophole.

>> this discussion about revenue, in my view, is over. it's about taking on the spending problem here in washington .

>> reporter: the president made it clear, he believes the public is on his side.

>> we just need republicans in congress to catch up with their own party, and their country on this.

>> reporter: one thing the white house made clear, though, they don't want to get dragged into ongoing budget fights for months like what happened in the summer of 2011 . instead, the next week the president plans to push forward on guns, immigration, other parts of his agenda, let the budget sort of be a side business.

>> chuck todd starting us off from the white house lawn