CBS's Erica Hill channeled the overblown worries of liberals about influence of the Tea Party on Thursday's Early Show, asking Newt Gingrich, "The Tea Party has really made some big inroads...But there's a feeling by some folks that this very small group of people is starting to control the conversation. Do there need to be more voices at the table, in general, at this point?"
Hill brought on Gingrich to discuss his new Contract With America package, due to be released later in the day. Just as in The Early Show's interview of Herman Cain  the previous morning, the anchor flattered her guest by congratulating him for his good showing in a recent poll, but wasted little time before launching a critique of one known part of his proposal, thinly veiled in conservative language:
HILL: ...Among the tidbits that we have, that have come out this morning, you're looking to give Americans, in many ways, more choice. One of those proposals: you could stick with the existing tax code, or have the option of using a flat tax rate. You could stick with the existing Social Security plan, or maybe look at putting your money in a private personal account. You look at that- and choices are great- but, in many ways, especially when it comes to taxes, it feels like that could add a layer, it could add a complexity, and it doesn't feel like it's reducing the size of government.
Later in the interview, Hill set her sights on the Tea Party, as Gingrich had received the endorsement of one of the groups inside the movement. Her question, of course, hinted that the Republican Party should turn more towards the center and/or the left:
HILL: ...[Y]ou recently had an endorsement from the head of the Tea Party. The Tea Party has really made some big inroads and has garnered a huge voice in this country. But, at the same time, there's a feeling by some folks that this very small group of people is starting to control the conversation. Do there need to be more voices at the table, in general, at this point?
It should be pointed out that this "very small group" brought hundreds of thousands of people to Washington less than 2 years ago. Of course, Hill probably has no issue with a "very small group" among her colleagues in the liberal media trying to control the political conversation in the country.
Almost a week earlier, the CBS anchor pushed another GOP presidential candidate , Michele Bachmann, to endorse amnesty for the children of illegal immigrants, also couched in a conservative-like argument: "Why not, though, give them a tuition break now, rather then, perhaps, down the line, having to hand over unemployment, or even welfare?"
The full transcript of Erica Hill's interview of Newt Gingrich, which aired three minutes into the 8 am Eastern hour:
ERICA HILL: We take a look now at the ever-changing Republican presidential race. The latest Fox News poll shows former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, once again, the front-runner for the GOP pack, while Texas Governor Rick Perry has slipped to second. Coming in a strong third: Herman Cain, who just, of course, won that Florida straw poll last weekend.
Also making a surge, though- former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, who joins us this morning from Des Moines, Iowa. Mr. Speaker, good to have you with us, and in the latest CNN poll, they had you in third, which must feel pretty good.
[CBS News Graphic: "Newt's 'New Contract': Gingrich To Outline New Plan Today"]
NEWT GINGRICH: Well, it does. I think the ideas, the solutions, the positive approach we're taking is actually beginning to work, and people are beginning to look for somebody who can meet the size of the problems we now face as a country.
HILL: So you are releasing today a new Contract For America for 2011. Among the tidbits that we have, that have come out this morning, you're looking to give Americans, in many ways, more choice. One of those proposals: you could stick with the existing tax code, or have the option of using a flat tax rate. You could stick with the existing Social Security plan, or maybe look at putting your money in a private personal account. You look at that- and choices are great- but, in many ways, especially when it comes to taxes, it feels like that could add a layer, it could add a complexity, and it doesn't feel like it's reducing the size of government.
GINGRICH: Well, in the case of the tax code, it lets you decide whether you're better off to have a one-page form, or whether you want to keep your home mortgage deduction, you want to keep various other kinds of deductions you currently have. I think it's very hard to get to a pure flat tax because people don't trust politicians, and they don't want to give up all of their various deductions. But if it's your choice- and this has been done in Rhode Island, it's been done in a number of countries around the world- then, people who want to can voluntarily do that. It simplifies the code for them.
But the underlying point about the size of government, in our brand-new 21st century Contract with America, we list a series of steps we'll take, starting on the very first day with somewhere between 50 and 200 executive order-, the first of which will abolish the White House czars. Those will all be done on Inaugural Day. And then, we move to ten major legislative areas, one of which is to fundamentally reform and overhaul the management of the federal government for the first time since the 1880s, and we believe that would save about $500 billion a year, just by that process. So I think you'd see a dramatically smaller federal government. I'm the only Speaker of the House to have balanced the federal budget in your lifetime, and I think I can say with some authority, we can get back to a balanced budget if we have the right reforms, and government will be smaller, leaner, and more effective if we do it right.
HILL: And you say, overall, that this plan- your plan, your contract here, the new one- would fundamentally change the trajectory of this country. But you've also admitted in speaking with some folks who've seen the plan early, who you've talked with- are saying this could take some time. There are estimates it could take as much as eight years, which would, of course, be two terms for any president. So are you admitting then that the changes that this country needs cannot happen overnight and, in fact, may not even be possible in one term?
GINGRICH: I think the changes an begin within hours of being inaugurated, and I think the initial wave of executive orders could have a very substantial redirection and impact on the country. I think that the legislative outline that we're going to release today here in Des Moines would be the first year of work, in order to be- moving things. But if you're talking about a system which has been building up since 1932- 80 years next year; 80 years of bureaucracy, regulation, habits- it's -it is going to take a little bit of time to move it. And remember, you're going to have constant active opposition from the old order. The interest groups, the bureaucracies- they're not going to go away easily. They're going to fight every inch of the way, as we've seen, for example, in Madison, Wisconsin, or as we've seen in Great Britain.
HILL: Well, we're seeing- well, even in terms of that fight, you recently had an endorsement from the head of the Tea Party. The Tea Party has really made some big inroads and has garnered a huge voice in this country. But, at the same time, there's a feeling by some folks that this very small group of people is starting to control the conversation. Do there need to be more voices at the table, in general, at this point?
GINGRICH: Well, I think to get everything done, you need 305 million voices at the table. That's the total American population. But if you look at the issues we develop and we're dealing with- some of which are brand-new, such as a very major change in how we approach brain science- for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, autism, mental health. Another is the application of this fundamental change in the management of government. Another is the implementation of the Tenth Amendment, something the Tea Party movement cares deeply about, which would return power to the states from Washington. And in Medicaid alone- it's estimated it would save $700 billion over the next ten years.
So I think you can bring people together, as we did in 1980 with Reagan, and as we did again in 1994 with the Contract of America, and you can have a large majority- not everyone, but a large majority- agree that creating more jobs, balancing the budget, replacing ObamaCare, developing a strong national security- and you just had a report on the danger we have from weapons of mass destruction in our big cities. We can- controlling the border, which is overwhelmingly supported; having an American energy policy, which is- about 80% of the American people favor- I think we can build a coalition that's very big in favor of this change.
HILL: All right. Well, we will be following, as this shakes out over the next year-plus, and we will be following your progress as well. Thanks to for your time this morning, Mr. Speaker.
GINGRICH: Good. Thank you. I think over the next year, it will happen. Thank you.