"Militantly non-partisan" Major Garrett sounded more like an Obama administration flack on Thursday's CBS This Morning as he spotlighted the President's latest P.R. stunt. Garrett noted Obama's plan to visit a northern Virginia middle-class family and claimed that the Democrat was underlining the "self-evident point that if the there is a deal and their taxes aren't raised by about $2,000, they'll be happier and spend more money."
The correspondent also uncritically pointed out how Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner signaled that the White House was willing to go over the fiscal cliff if their demand for higher taxes isn't satisfied.
Garrett led his report with his "self-evident" line about President Obama's planned photo-op trip across the Potomac. Moments later, he played the clip of Geithner's "oh, absolutely" reply to CNBC's Steve Liesman question about the possibility of the administration taking the country over the fiscal cliff.
Besides failing to include any criticism of this vow from the White House, the CBS journalist omitted didn't dwell long on the President's uncompromising position on a higher debt ceiling. He merely stated that the possibility of a deal on the budget "looks a bit more complicated after Mr. Obama...demanded Republicans raise the debt ceiling this month without any spending cut strings attached."
Since Garrett raised no possible objection to the Democrat asking to overstep his constitutional authority, one might conclude that he tacitly approves this move. The journalist did end up playing a clip of Senator Mitch McConnell ripping the President for his demand - something he didn't do early with the tax issue earlier in the report.
The CBS correspondent's slant towards the President emerged one more time near the end of the segment when he highlighted that "public opinion, generally, is on the President's side." This continues a trend that began at the end of November, when he joined CBS as chief White House correspondent.
The full transcript of Major Garrett's report from Thursday's CBS This Morning:
NORAH O'DONNELL: In Washington this morning, there are just 26 days left before the fiscal cliff deadline. President Obama spoke on the phone with House Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday, while his treasury secretary said the White House is, in fact, ready to go straight over the fiscal cliff.
Major Garrett is at the White House. Major, good morning.
[CBS News Graphic: "Fiscal Cliff Fight: White House Warning As Deadline Nears"]
MAJOR GARRETT: Well, good morning, Norah and Charlie. Later on this afternoon, the President will travel across the Potomac River to northern Virginia to meet a middle-class family, to make the self-evident point that if the there is a deal and their taxes aren't raised by about $2,000, they'll be happier and spend more money. That's the P.R. side of all this. Much more importantly, for a deal, the two key players yesterday picked up the phone.
GARRETT (voice-over): The phone call relatively brief and substantive, though details remain elusive. It was shorter, sources say, than last week's 28-minute conversation, described then as curt, direct, and frank. No one familiar with this call used such barbed words. It also occurred before Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner laid down this harsh fiscal cliff marker.
LIESMAN: Is the administration prepared to go over the fiscal cliff?
GEITHNER: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, again, there's no prospect to an agreement that doesn't involve those rates going on the top two percent of the wealthiest Americans. Remember, it's only two percent.
GARRETT: That danger? Not enough to keep Congress in session. It's already quit for the week, as most lawmakers assume - correctly - they are bit players until there's a deal. And that looks a bit more complicated after Mr. Obama, in a meeting with leaders of some of the country's largest corporations, demanded Republicans raise the debt ceiling this month without any spending cut strings attached.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If Congress, in any way, suggests that they're going to tie negotiations to debt ceiling votes, and take us to the brink of default once again, as part of a budget negotiation, I will not play that game, because we've got to – we've got to break that habit before it starts.
GARRETT: The President sees the fiscal cliff showdown as an opportunity to break that linkage for good. Republicans say they will not increase the debt ceiling - now $16 trillion, and due to expire in February - without more deficit reduction.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R), KENTUCKY (from speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate): History shows that the only major deficit-cutting deals we ever do around here - ever - comes after debates over the debt ceiling. It may be a good idea if you don't care about the debt, but it's a non-starter for those of us who do.
GARRETT (on-camera): Public opinion, generally, is on the President's side, but Republicans in the House are not paralyzed or perilous. In fact, they're more unified behind Speaker Boehner than they were a year ago. Why is this important? Well, the White House is beginning to notice, and they now believe that there is a deal Boehner can find the votes to pass it. Charlie and Norah?
CHARLIE ROSE: Major Garrett, thanks.