CBS: 'Militant' Tea Partiers Create 'Chasm' in GOP

Prior to President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric wondered what the message of the midterm elections was, to which political analyst Jeff Greenfield replied: "You've got 87 new members of the House, many of whom are fired up with a kind of militancy we very rarely see, even among new members."

Greenfield went to proclaim: "One of the things Obama politically is going to try to do – not just tonight but over the next year – is to separate out the middle from what he will try to paint as a much too ideological Republican majority." He then used the "militant" label a second time in describing tensions between new Tea Party members and Republican leadership: "It's also going to be a lot of pressure on new Speaker – the new House Speaker John Boehner. I mean, there's a tension between John Boehner and the more militant Tea Party folks."

Moments later, Couric turned to Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer and fretted: "And how serious, Bob Schieffer, do you see this chasm developing? I mean, how big a problem will this pose for the GOP?" Schieffer declared: "It is a problem. And, I mean, the fact that the Republican leadership is letting Michele Bachmann make a second response here just underlines that....they're afraid to tell her not to, because they know how powerful these Tea Party people were and the power they had in the last election."

Here is a transcript of the January 25 exchange:

9:06PM ET

KATIE COURIC: You know, Jeff, a lot of people are saying the real battle is how the recent midterm elections should be interpreted. Republicans say voters wanted less government, they didn't want government-run health care. And the White House claims they just didn't like partisan politics and they wanted both sides to work together. What do you think the message of the midterms was?

JEFF GREENFIELD: Because different people can interpret those differently, one of the most important things we're going to see is how the Republicans interpret it when they start to govern. You've got 87 new members of the House, many of whom are fired up with a kind of militancy we very rarely see, even among new members. They really believe they were elected to put a firm immediate halt on spending and one of the things Obama politically is going to try to do – not just tonight but over the next year – is to separate out the middle from what he will try to paint as a much too ideological Republican majority. It's also going to be a lot of pressure on new Speaker – the new House Speaker John Boehner. I mean, there's a tension between John Boehner and the more militant Tea Party folks. That may be the best political story this season.


COURIC: And, in fact, John Dickerson, how is that shaking out? We all talked about after the midterm results how these two, basically, sides of the Republican Party were going to be integrated once this new congress was convened. What have you seen happen? How has it all sort of turned out so far?

JOHN DICKERSON: Well, it's a shaky business so far and the shakiness comes, we see it tonight. Congressman Paul Ryan, who will give the official Republican response, and then Congresswoman Michele Bachmann will give another sort of Tea Party response. And the difference there, essentially, is between governing – which is what Ryan has to do, put together a budget, listen to all of the input and voices – and Michele Bachmann who's doing a little bit something closer to campaigning. And the mix there and how they find that mix, how they keep all of those promises they made, but still get enough votes to actually pass something that could even make it to the President's desk. That's the tension and they're still working that out and they're working it out in public.

COURIC: And how serious, Bob Schieffer, do you see this chasm developing? I mean, how big a problem will this pose for the GOP?

BOB SCHIEFFER: It is a problem. And, I mean, the fact that the Republican leadership is letting Michele Bachmann make a second response here just underlines that. I mean, my heavens, can you imagine what Sam Rayburn, when he was Speaker of the House, would have done if one of his members had said 'Oh, by the way, I'm going to make a response, too'? Or Lyndon Johnson, when he was the leader of the Senate? They're letting her make this speech because they're afraid to tell her not to, because they know how powerful these Tea Party people were and the power they had in the last election.

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

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC