[cnn-photo-caption image= http://blogs.cnn.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2010/02/teaparty-gi-art.jpg caption="Protesters gather on Capitol Hill during the Tea Party Express rally on September 12, 2009 in Washington, DC."]
By Jim Acosta, CNN
Once written off by Democrats as "astroturf" (Washington-speak for faux grassroots) and a word that rhymes with "fleabaggers," tea party activists across the country are proving the skeptics wrong.
Scott Brown's tea party-infused upset in the Massachusetts Senate race stopped health care reform in its tracks. A tea party two-fer.
Still, ask around and many Americans are wondering, "who are these tea party guys?"
So that's what we did. In part one of our series, "Welcome to the Tea Party," we went to some rallies, talked to two of the major tea party outfits and zeroed in on one activist in the movement who's worried it's being co-opted by the Republican Party.
Here's what we've found. The tea party is not astroturf. It's a booming movement of conservatives and independents.
Many of the activists don't like President Obama. But some are just as mad at the GOP. Much of the anger is fueled by the bailouts and runaway deficits. And one thing is clear, the activists are not going away.
As for that activist who is worried Republican Party operatives are circling his movement – that part is true.
On Wednesday's American Morning, we've got a behind-the-scenes look at the Tea Party Express, the popular conservative bus tour that swept the nation. We're not riding the bus. Instead, we visit the group's offices, located – get this – inside a Republican political consulting firm.
Tell us what you think about the Tea Party movement. And don't forget to watch parts two and three on American Morning. Here's a two word preview: Marco Rubio.
Editor's Note: Tuesday’s American Morning audience expressed deep concern for Haiti’s orphans. Some who were already in the process of adopting children from the country shared the very thorough vetting process that takes place in order to adopt. Others suggested alternative options to adopting, such as sponsoring children in-country who can stay with loved ones but benefit from assistance.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/02/gates.mullen.gi.art.jpg caption="Defense Secretary Robert Gates (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen (R) participate in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on February 2, 2010."]
Washington (CNN) - The Pentagon has taken the first steps toward repealing the military's controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding gay and lesbian service members, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday.
Laying the groundwork for a repeal of the policy will take more than a year, Gates said. In the interim, however, the Defense Department will start enforcing the policy "in a fairer manner," he told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
President Obama called for a repeal of the policy during last week's State of the Union address.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen also endorsed a repeal Tuesday, telling the committee it is his "personal belief" that "allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly [in the military] would be the right thing to do."
"For me, personally, it comes down to integrity," he said.
"The question before us is not whether the military prepares to make this change, but how we best prepare for it," Gates told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "We have received our orders from the commander in chief and we are moving out accordingly."
But the ultimate decision on whether to repeal the policy, he acknowledged, rests with Congress.
You may feel like you're in good shape and the number on the scale may not be anything to worry about. But, new research is showing that just because you have a healthy weight, you may still actually be obese.
Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta joined us on Tuesday's American Morning to explain how this could be possible.
According to Pentagon sources, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is prepared to ask for up to a year to study the best way to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
Today's hearing on Capitol Hill comes on the heels of one key sentence in the president's State of the Union address last week.
This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do.
We were joined on Tuesday's American Morning by Alex Nicholson, the executive director of Servicemembers United, an advocacy group that opposes the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Nicholson is a former Army intelligence officer who was dismissed for being gay.