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CBS's Major Garrett Ballyhoos 'Adamant' Obama on 'Protecting...Middle-Income Earners'

On Thursday's CBS This Morning, new White House correspondent and former Fox News journalist Major Garrett bucked the "militantly non-partisan" label he gave himself over a year ago when he hyped the President's supposed populist stand in the fiscal cliff negotiations with top leaders in Congress: "President Obama is adamant about protecting existing income tax rates for middle-income earners and raising them on the wealthy."

Garrett later spotlighted how Obama "warned Republicans not to ignore his calls to protect middle-income households from higher taxes."

The correspondent forwarded the White House's talking points on the negotiations after giving his "adamant" line: "For the President, the politics of this are very simple: he ran on the issue and against Republican obstructionism. And if Republicans don't relent, the confrontation over the fiscal cliff and the issues and the campaigning here to resolve it will continue."

Later in his report, Garrett did point out that "Republicans, like Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have offered to break a no-new-tax-increase pledge, and raise revenue as part of a budget deal. But Graham's now pulling back until the President offers specifics on entitlement cuts." But the neophyte CBS News journalist failed to include something that even Politico reported on Wednesday - that "congressional Democrats are starting to draw a much tougher line on entitlements in the increasingly messy fiscal cliff talks, warning Republicans to keep their hands off Social Security and Medicare benefits."

This isn't the first time in recent months that Garrett has carried water for the President. In a March 2012 piece for his previous employer, National Journal, the correspondent marveled at Obama's "if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon" remark about the controversial shooting case in Florida: "His decision to wrap his arms around Martin's family and give voice to thousands who have taken up their cause may be a watershed moment in his presidency."

The full transcript of Major Garrett's report on Thursday's CBS This Morning:

NORAH O'DONNELL: The odds are, your budget problems are still unresolved this morning, and the same is true in Washington. And so, that's where we begin this morning.

CHARLIE ROSE: With just 33 days left to the fiscal cliff deadline, President Obama sends his treasury secretary to Capitol Hill today to negotiate with congressional leaders.

Major Garrett is at the White House. Major, good morning.

[CBS News Graphic: "Fiscal Face-Off: Geithner To Negotiate With Lawmakers Today"]

MAJOR GARRETT: Well, good morning, Charlie and Norah. Even as negotiations intensify, the campaigning continues here at the White House, President Obama is adamant about protecting existing income tax rates for middle-income earners and raising them on the wealthy. For the President, the politics of this are very simple: he ran on the issue and against Republican obstructionism. And if Republicans don't relent, the confrontation over the fiscal cliff and the issues and the campaigning here to resolve it will continue.

GARRETT (voice-over): For the second time since winning reelection, President Obama welcomed the applause of hand-picked supporters, and he warned Republicans not to ignore his calls to protect middle-income households from higher taxes.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA (from press conference): It's too important for Washington to screw this up. Now's the time for us to work on what we all agreed to, which is, let's keep middle class taxes low.

GARRETT: To achieve that, Mr. Obama must persuade Republicans to allow tax cuts for households that earn more than $250,000 to expire. That means indirect GOP complicity in a tax rate increase, and they're not interested.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R), HOUSE SPEAKER (from press conference): You're not going to grow the economy if you raise tax rates on the – on the top two rates. It will hurt small businesses. It will hurt our economy. It's why this is not the right approach.

GARRETT: This impasse is just one of many hurdles Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Mr. Obama's lead negotiator, will confront in meetings today with top congressional leaders. Erskine Bowles, head of Mr. Obama's deficit reduction commission, met this week with all the players at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

ERKSINE BOWLES, NATIONAL DEFICIT COMMISSION CO-CHAIR: Look, I'm not more optimistic or less optimistic. I'm hopeful, but I wouldn't be – don't put me down anywhere near the optimistic category-

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER (off-camera): Do you see any-

BOWLES: We've got a long way to go, and a very few days to get it done.

GARRETT: Republicans, like Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have offered to break a no-new-tax-increase pledge, and raise revenue as part of a budget deal. But Graham's now pulling back until the President offers specifics on entitlement cuts.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA (from press conference): I have not seen one plan from this White House that would deal with Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, which are all going to fail and take the country down the road of Greece. And until I hear something from the white house, I'm not going to say another word about revenue.

GARRETT (on-camera): In one important respect, the national campaign will end symbolically today in the President's private dining room. Mitt Romney and the President are scheduled to dine together for about an hour. The White House says there's no formal agenda, and Romney aides tell me they weren't even sure this luncheon would occur. Several weeks had lapsed since the President's election night vow to meet with Mr. Romney. But there will be no press coverage allowed. The White House says, though, it will release, for all of us, one photograph. Charlie and Norah?

[CBS News Graphic: "Breaking Bread: Obama And Romney To Meet For Lunch Today"]

ROSE: Major Garrett, thank you.

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