Of all the positions I’ve taken on this blog, probably none has attracted so much vitriol as my attitude toward the Tea Party participants. I have called a good number of them uninformed and ignorant and a small minority of them outright racist. In return I have been told I don’t respect the first amendment and that I am un-American because I don’t support the common man in his effort to redress perceived wrongs. Perhaps if I saw a Tea Party participant present himself convincingly, I might be persuaded that the Tea Party movement is something more than misdirected rage and amorphous social anxiety.
This week the Tea Party movement took a far right turn and started to eat its own at a town hall with Republican South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham. Graham, one of the Senators most critical of President Obama, was called a traitor by folks in the crowd.
This odd turn of events demanded an explanation so once again, two “witnesses for the defense” of the Tea Party movement got paraded on national television and wound up simply winning the case for the prosecution. In fact, I challenge anyone to watch the following video and not cringe with discomfort:
Let’s start with some reasonable objections that Tea Party sympathizers might have with the above interview.
- Chris Matthews is a bully. That is why the show is called “Hardball”. Chris reserves the right to be tough and often rude to his guests in what he believes is a quest for the truth.
- The two men are relatively ordinary private citizens with no preparation for a TV interview, much less with a tough interviewer with Matthews’ experience.
- In a corollary to point 1, Chris does not play fair, asking questions far afield from the main topic of why the sudden turn on Lindsay Graham.
With those objections out of the way, let’s look at how our defenders of the Tea Party movement fared:
- Everett Wilkinson of Florida Tea Party Patriots starts off with the total foolishness that nearly 2 million marched on Washington on 9/12, when reliable estimates place the crowd at no more than 500,000 tops (more conservative estimates come in at about 75,000).
- Wilkinson could not answer the question that I have repeatedly asked in the comments section of this blog, namely why the sudden need for protest when all of our fiscal problems, e.g. out of control spending, started in the Bush administration?
- Next comes the old stuff about Iraq being responsible for 9/11 (and some odd comment about Iran thrown in there also).
- Wilkinson ends up looking like a good natured guy who spouts Republican talking points without much underlying knowledge. He supports my supposition that a lot of Tea Party members are vague, to be kind, about what is really bothering them. Wilkinson’s finest moment, and I say this sincerely, is when he reminds Matthews that he is basically off topic. Wilkinson looks like a pro compared to what comes next.
- Next up is Allen Olson, a self described South Carolina Tea Party organizer. His first “gripe” is that Lindsay Graham is willing to “meet the Democrats more than halfway” about social security. OK, good specific gripe there. What about this social security debate has Olson upset? “Well, I’m not exactly sure exactly what the issue was but Senator Graham said he was willing to talk to the Democrats on the issue of social security.” In impolite circles, this is known as not having the foggiest idea what you’re talking about. Matthews exercises incredibly empathetic restraint with this fellow who on the very first question makes it clear he has no business being interviewed about politics. Maybe about the Clemson Tigers, but not about politics.
- Matthews pours a bit of salt in the wound by suggesting Graham is a “Richard Russell conservative”, a reference to a Georgia Senator who led a conservative movement from the late 30’s to the early 60’s. I had to look Russell up to find out who he was. Olson, as he literally bobbed and weaved in his chair, was as clueless as I. Matthews has studied politics and Olson clearly has not. Unfair fight but again evidence that this representative of the “movement” is in way over his head.
- Chris then explores climate change and evolution in an attempt to make the guy look like a real neanderthal. Olson handles this pretty well actually, saying he doesn’t believe in climate change (lots of folks agree with him) and that he supports science and religion.
- While Olson distances himself from those calling Graham a traitor (Olson stops at RINO), he then caps off the interview by proposing a Sarah Palin/Jim DeMint President/VP ticket in 2012. We won’t discuss Sarah, whom I’ve opined on extensively but Jim DeMint? DeMint, the Senator whose only reason to block health care reform is to destroy Obama’s presidency? DeMint, who visited the foreign government of Honduras, not recognized by our government? The same DeMint who compared Obama’s administration to Nazi Germany? Yeah Olson sure does know how to pick ’em.
- Like Wilkinson, Olson ended his part of the interview on a sympathetic note, comparing Palin’s bomb of an interview with Katie Couric, to his own nervousness talking to Chris Matthews. An ordinary guy defending an ordinary gal.
Bottom line, these two gentlemen are the best the Tea Party movement has to offer as public spokespeople. In their cringe-worthy testimony, they prove my supposition that the Tea Party waters are rough but don’t run very deep.
The prosecution rests its case.