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CBS Can't Make Up Its Mind - Tea Party Still 'Powerful' or 'Weakened'?

On Monday's CBS This Morning, Norah O'Donnell seemed unsure about the extent of Tea Party's political influence. During an interview of former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, O'Donnell first indicated that the movement was a potent force: "I want to ask you...about how powerful the Tea Party is. Is the Tea Party holding back House Republicans and Speaker Boehner from agreeing to additional revenues?"

The anchor later hinted the Tea Party's power was on the wane: "FreedomWorks spent $40 million in the last election, and you had less than one-in-four of a winning record on the candidates you backed. Was it the organization, or is the Tea Party weakened?"

Screen Cap of Graphic From 10 December 2012 Edition of CBS This Morning | NewsBusters.orgCo-anchor Charlie Rose led the segment with the issue of the ongoing fiscal cliff negotiations: "It seems that Republicans – some senators, are beginning to shift and say, give the President his...tax increase on those households making more than 250,000 [dollars], and then, the focus can turn to entitlements. Are you in that group?" A on-screen graphic emphasized the apparent public support for higher taxes on the rich with a liberal media outlet: "Raise Taxes On Households Earning $250,000+: Favor, 60%; Oppose, 38%; Source: Politico/George Washington University Poll"

Armey replied, in part, by spotlighting how "time after time after time, what we got from the Democrats was, give us the tax increases now; we'll give you the spending cuts later. Spending cuts never showed up."

O'Donnell then asked her "powerful" question about the three-plus-year-old movement. The former Texas representative answered by pointing out that "the Tea Party is not a political party. It is a group of people across the country that have a commitment to a set of principles. They believe economic growth is the first most important need of this country, which means, get the government to stand down, quit interfering, quit obstructing growth in so many ways."

Rose and O'Donnell's questions are just the latest indication that the two CBS anchors' liberal bias. Two weeks earlier, they lobbied current Republican Senator Bob Corker to back higher tax rates.

Near the end of the interview, when O'Donnell wondered about a "weakened" Tea Party, Armey countered by placing the blame on social conservative issues: "We had a lot of candidates, quite frankly, that did dumb things out there....We had at least two candidates that should have won that, frankly, lost because they said some stupid things on the subject that their parties' leader should have schooled them to stay away from in the first place."

The full transcript of the Dick Armey segment on Monday's CBS This Morning:

CHARLIE ROSE: We turn now to former House Majority Leader Dick Arrmey. He had his own budget battles with the White House in the 1990s. He recently served as chairman of the Tea Party group, FreedomWorks. Good morning, Leader.

DICK ARMEY, (R), FMR. HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Good morning.

[CBS News Graphic: "Armey's View: Fmr. House Majority Leader On Fiscal Cliff"]

ROSE: It seems that Republicans – some senators, are beginning to shift and say, give the President his two percent [sic] tax increase on those households making more than 250,000 [dollars], and then, the focus can turn to entitlements. Are you in that group?

ARMEY: Well, that's – that's something they hope for, but, you know, there's an awful lot of us that remember, time after time after time, what we got from the Democrats was, give us the tax increases now; we'll give you the spending cuts later. Spending cuts never showed up. One of the things I think the – that, of course, they just met again yesterday. Maybe, there's reason for John Boehner to be hopeful that the President is really going to sit down and work with him – I mean, work with him, rather than to tell him what I require.

[CBS News Graphic: "Raise Taxes On Households Earning $250,000+: Favor, 60%; Oppose, 38%; Source: Politico/George Washington University Poll; Margin of Error: +/- 3%"]

But the fact of the matter is, John Boehner's got the toughest job in town. He's got a seriously divided majority in the House; he's got a dysfunctional Senate that's not – you know, it's questionable whether they can do anything over there; and they've got a president who says, basically, you give me what I want. Once you agree to that, I'll talk to you. So, my own view is, unless the President shows some real negotiating – we shall say vigor - commitment - what I would do, if I was John Boehner, is I would take my version of what I think is the best policy for America to the floor; offer the Democrats, on behalf of the President, a chance to offer a substitute; take the vote.

If the President has his overwhelming mandate from the American people, the 435 members of Congress will recognize that mandate in their districts, and he'll win the vote. If he wins the vote, then he owns the results, and he can take them to the Senate, which is controlled by his party-

Norah O'Donnell, CBS News Anchor; & Dick Armey, Former House Majority Leader; Screen Cap From 10 December 2012 Edition of CBS This Morning | NewsBusters.orgNORAH O'DONNELL: So, Leader Armey-

ARMEY: Sign it into law, and live with the consequences.

O'DONNELL: So, Leader Armey, I want to ask you, though, about how powerful the Tea Party is. Is the Tea Party holding back House Republicans and Speaker Boehner from agreeing to additional revenues - perhaps more than $1 trillion - raising those rates on the wealthiest Americans?

ARMEY: No, not at all. First of all, understand, the Tea Party is not a – a political party. It is a group of people across the country that have a commitment to a set of principles. They believe economic growth is the first most important need of this country, which means, get the government to stand down, quit interfering, quit obstructing growth in so many ways-

O'DONNELL: Okay. So Leader-

ARMEY: Not the least of which is the EPA-

O'DONNELL: Leader, you – you are leaving – you're-

ARMEY: And we've got a lot of members of Congress that agree with that.

O'DONNELL: Leader, you are leaving FreedomWorks, an organization of – of Tea Party people, and I want to ask you about that record, because FreedomWorks spent $40 million in the last election, and you had less than one-in-four of a winning record on the candidates you backed. Was it the organization, or is the Tea Party weakened?

[CBS News Graphic: "FreedomWorks & 2012 Election: > Spent almost $40 million; > Less than 25% of backed candidate [sic] won; Source: Sunlight Foundation"]

ARMEY: No, I don't think that's it at all. We had a lot of candidates, quite frankly, that did dumb things out there. Once the candidate wins the primary- becomes the Republican nomination [sic] - the Republican Party has an obligation to that candidate. I don't think the Republican Party schooled their candidates very well or supported their candidates very well. We had at least two candidates that should have won that, frankly, lost because they said some stupid things on the subject that their parties' leader should have schooled them to stay away from in the first place.

O'DONNELL: All right. Thank-

ROSE: Thank you-

ARMEY: To lay this off on the Tea Party activists across the country, I think is just Alibi Ike on the part of the Republican Party.

O'DONNELL: Okay. Dick Armey – Leader, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

— Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.