Thursday, April 16, 2009

That Little Tea Party... So Much Haterade

When plezWorld heard the right wing fanatics (of the Newt Gingrich, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh vein) were organizing a tax day protest akin to the Colonial Period protest when a rogue band of patriots dumped a shipment of Britain's finest tea in the Boston Harbor, I knew that it would quickly devolve in a racist-tinged rant against the Barack Obama presidency (that hasn't seen its hundredth day) and calls for the repeal of forthcoming Obama tax hikes (which as of this writing hasn't been enacted). It left one scratching his head why this people who claim to love this country wasn't out protesting Obama's predecessor's off-the-hook deficit spending of the past eight years? I don't even have to dust off my engineering degree to come up with an answer... one president was an establishment white guy and the other is a liberal Black guy! Darker skin makes an easy target for the rudderless, faceless, tactless right wing fanatics.

Instead of spending too much time interpreting for the reader the myriad of the same that occurred around the country on yesterday, I thought it'd be cool to include excerpts from a few select newspapers. Here goes... covered the Atlanta "Tea Party" for Georgia:

Thousands of tax protesters streamed Wednesday to state government’s front lawn, creating a sign-waving, anthem-shouting mass as darkness fell.

The Atlanta “Tea Party” at the Georgia Capitol stretched for blocks in protest of federal spending and the Obama Administration’s efforts to stimulate the economy.

“We stand here tonight seeing clearly what has been done and what we must do,” state Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ranger), said.

Graves quoted a favorite of the crowd, the late former President Ronald Reagan, who warned “a government is never more dangerous than when our desire to have it help us... blinds us to how it can harm us.”

The Atlanta rally was one of 20 around the state and more than 300 around the country. Billed as grass-roots protests, critics — especially Democrats — have labeled the gatherings as frauds created by Republican advocacy groups with the backing of deep-pocketed lobbyists and Fox News.

Meanwhile, at the Capitol itself, protesters — who model themselves after the Revolutionary-era Boston Tea Party — decried a federal government they say has lost touch.

Speaker after speaker complained about the bailouts of banks, automakers, mortgage lenders and anyone they deemed responsible for the current economic crisis. Fox News erected a massive set where conservative personality Sean Hannity planned to broadcast live.

Former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) spoke. His organization, Freedom Works, is a primary organizer of many of the tea parties around the nation. Armey’s group, along with conservative groups Americans for Prosperity and American Solutions for Winning the Future, founded by former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), helped organize the events. Gingrich was scheduled to speak at the New York City tea party. American Solutions president and CEO Dave Ryan spoke here.

Armey planned to address the concerns critics have raised over who was in charge of the events.

“I plan to tell everybody they need to make it clear it’s their gathering,” Armey said before the rally, as he stood at the corner of Martin Luther King Drive and Courtland Street. “It’s not organized by big shots in Washington.”

Jason Pye of Covington, the legislative director for the Georgia Libertarian Party, had mixed emotions about the rally. He and his fellow Libertarians have long supported the ideals exhorted Wednesday: less government, free markets and a Darwinian-approach to private business.

Many of those speaking, he said, haven’t always protected those ideals.

“I’m happy people are getting together,” he said. “But the movement has been co-opted by Republicans who are trying to regain their identity and want to forget George W. Bush existed. Libertarians aren’t forgetting.”

~ ~ ~

The New York Times' Paul Krugman wrote an op-ed piece about the tea parties:

This is a column about Republicans — and I’m not sure I should even be writing it.

Today’s G.O.P. is, after all, very much a minority party. It retains some limited ability to obstruct the Democrats, but has no ability to make or even significantly shape policy.

Beyond that, Republicans have become embarrassing to watch. And it doesn’t feel right to make fun of crazy people. Better, perhaps, to focus on the real policy debates, which are all among Democrats.

But here’s the thing: the G.O.P. looked as crazy 10 or 15 years ago as it does now. That didn’t stop Republicans from taking control of both Congress and the White House. And they could return to power if the Democrats stumble. So it behooves us to look closely at the state of what is, after all, one of our nation’s two great political parties.

One way to get a good sense of the current state of the G.O.P., and also to see how little has really changed, is to look at the “tea parties” that have been held in a number of places already, and will be held across the country on Wednesday. These parties — antitaxation demonstrations that are supposed to evoke the memory of the Boston Tea Party and the American Revolution — have been the subject of considerable mockery, and rightly so.

But everything that critics mock about these parties has long been standard practice within the Republican Party.

Thus, President Obama is being called a “socialist” who seeks to destroy capitalism. Why? Because he wants to raise the tax rate on the highest-income Americans back to, um, about 10 percentage points less than it was for most of the Reagan administration. Bizarre.

But the charge of socialism is being thrown around only because “liberal” doesn’t seem to carry the punch it used to. And if you go back just a few years, you find top Republican figures making equally bizarre claims about what liberals were up to. Remember when Karl Rove declared that liberals wanted to offer “therapy and understanding” to the 9/11 terrorists?

Then there are the claims made at some recent tea-party events that Mr. Obama wasn’t born in America, which follow on earlier claims that he is a secret Muslim. Crazy stuff — but nowhere near as crazy as the claims, during the last Democratic administration, that the Clintons were murderers, claims that were supported by a campaign of innuendo on the part of big-league conservative media outlets and figures, especially Rush Limbaugh.

Speaking of Mr. Limbaugh: the most impressive thing about his role right now is the fealty he is able to demand from the rest of the right. The abject apologies he has extracted from Republican politicians who briefly dared to criticize him have been right out of Stalinist show trials. But while it’s new to have a talk-radio host in that role, ferocious party discipline has been the norm since the 1990s, when Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, became known as “The Hammer” in part because of the way he took political retribution on opponents.

Going back to those tea parties, Mr. DeLay, a fierce opponent of the theory of evolution — he famously suggested that the teaching of evolution led to the Columbine school massacre — also foreshadowed the denunciations of evolution that have emerged at some of the parties.

Last but not least: it turns out that the tea parties don’t represent a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment. They’re AstroTurf (fake grass roots) events, manufactured by the usual suspects. In particular, a key role is being played by FreedomWorks, an organization run by Richard Armey, the former House majority leader, and supported by the usual group of right-wing billionaires. And the parties are, of course, being promoted heavily by Fox News.

But that’s nothing new, and AstroTurf has worked well for Republicans in the past. The most notable example was the “spontaneous” riot back in 2000 — actually orchestrated by G.O.P. strategists — that shut down the presidential vote recount in Florida’s Miami-Dade County.

So what’s the implication of the fact that Republicans are refusing to grow up, the fact that they are still behaving the same way they did when history seemed to be on their side? I’d say that it’s good for Democrats, at least in the short run — but it’s bad for the country.

For now, the Obama administration gains a substantial advantage from the fact that it has no credible opposition, especially on economic policy, where the Republicans seem particularly clueless.

But as I said, the G.O.P. remains one of America’s great parties, and events could still put that party back in power. We can only hope that Republicans have moved on by the time that happens.

~ ~ ~

In the Washington Post, Dana Milbank opined that the tea parties were flavored with haterade over all things President Obama:

As a tea party, what happened in Lafayette Square across from the White House yesterday was a washout.

There were no buttered scones, none of those dainty cucumber sandwiches and, as it happens, not a spot of tea. Organizers of the conservative protest were told at the last minute that they didn't have a permit to dump a million tea bags in the square, as they had planned.

Instead, they served up a rather noxious brew.

"Hey Big Brother: Show us Your Real Birth Certificate," said one sign in the rain-soaked crowd.

"Blackbeard Obama, King of the Tax Pirates," said another.

A third showed the president dressed up as Steve Urkel, the nerdy black kid with big glasses and suspenders from "Family Matters." "Did I do that?" the sign said, showing a graph of the economy plunging.

Young girls wore T-shirts printed with the message "Don't tax me, bro" -- a play on a protester's famous "Don't tase me, bro" cry at a John Kerry event.

Those messages might explain why Fox News, though actively promoting the "tea party" protests for tax day, tried to argue that it was not behind yesterday's coast-to-coast events. But Fox News analyst Tobin Smith, who took the stage in Lafayette Square yesterday, evidently didn't get the memo. "On behalf of Fox News Channel," he told more than 500 mud-spattered demonstrators, "I want to say: Welcome to the Comedy Channel of America, Washington, D.C."

After a few preliminaries, he went into a Fox News commercial for anchor Glenn Beck. "Anybody watching Glenn?" he asked to cheers. "That was a shameless plug, wasn't it? Glenn says hello as well. He's out at another tea party." Indeed he was, as were Sean Hannity and Neil Cavuto.

A small group of counterdemonstrators, wearing ballgowns, tuxedoes and pig snouts, interrupted and were stripped of their signs. Smith seized the display as an opportunity to highlight the Fox News slogan. "You know what 'Fair and Balanced' means?" he asked. " 'Fair and Balanced' means we take our message and try to overcompensate for their lack of message." Smith left with instructions: "Keep watching Fox, will you?"

The theme was echoed in some of the homemade signs the demonstrators carried, including "Watch Fox News," "Thank You Fox News," and even a recommendation: "Move Glenn Beck to 7 PM."

Without the spectacle of a 1773-style tea-bag dump in the square, the handmade signs became the focus of the event. Though ostensibly an anti-tax protest, it was more of an anti-Obama festival. Among the messages: "The Audacity of the Dope," "O Crap" and Obama as an acronym for "One Big Awful Mistake America." Some messages were ugly ("Napolitano -- Obama's Gestapo Queen," "Hang 'Em High Traitors," and a sign held by a young girl saying "Victim of Child Tax Abuse"). Others were funny ("Don't Talk to Me! I Forgot My Teleprompter"). Certain ones had sinister overtones ("Tax Slavery Sucks," and "Obama bin Lyin"). Then there was the guy holding a Cabbage Patch doll by its hair with the message: "My kid's growth stunted by your stimulus."

Though the left and right will fight over whether the protests were organic or fake AstroTurf, there can be little doubt that the grass roots were well nourished yesterday. The Secret Service informed the protesters that they could not set up their stage in front of the Treasury Department, as they had planned, so they wound up in a muddy patch of grass on the hindquarters side of Andrew Jackson's horse. The legs of the stage began to sink in the mud, and, as the lawn turned into a lake, several of the demonstrators had to wiggle their feet free of the muck.

"I don't think it could rain any harder," one of the organizers said. He urged the crowd to embrace the adversity: "When they tell you you can't bring a million tea bags to Lafayette Square, you work with it -- you find a place to put them."

For somebody, the "place to put them" turned out to be the North Lawn of the White House. As the protest began to break up, a demonstrator hurled what appeared to be a box of tea bags toward the executive mansion. The Secret Service, much like His Majesty's government in Boston, was not amused. The White House was locked down while a robot examined the tea.

Before the main acts, organizers allowed a bit of open microphone time, which resulted in one man telling Obama "You're an idiot!" Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, in a drenched business suit, rallied the crowd before some counterdemonstrators with whistles interrupted; Norquist scolded the "loud brownshirts." Alan Keyes, another headliner, railed against the "orgy of selfishness," the "orgy of debt" and "the scourge of immigration." Americans for Prosperity's Phil Kerpen directed his anger at Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner: "The tax cheat got our permit revoked." And Fox's Smith colorfully described Congress as "the only whorehouse in the world that fails to make a profit."

Talk-show host Mike Church treated the crowd to a mock fascist salute and said that "it's time to have a little revolution, I think. We don't have to fire weapons. You should own them, you should have a lot of ammo to go with them, but you don't have to shoot them."

"Unless we have to!" somebody called out.

"No, you're not going to have to," Church answered.

That's because these rebels, unlike the patriots of 1773, have Fox News.

~ ~ ~

Then has an article about the nationwide spending protest:

Armed with signs reading "no taxation without deliberation" and "stop bankrupting America," tens of thousands of people spent national tax day at organized "tea party" demonstrations across the country, protesting what some view as excessive government spending and bailouts.

"If you look at these nine little beautiful grandbabies, I'm here for them. Our government's out of control with spending and their future's being robbed," said Mary Wojnas, whose sign had a photo of her grandchildren next to the phrase, "Stop Generational Theft."

"Stop out-of-control spending and stop government takeover and intrusion in our lives. They're here to protect us and beyond that, get out of our way," said Wojnas, who attended a rally in front of the Georgia state capitol in Atlanta.

In Massachusetts, hundreds cheered as people dressed in 18th-century style wigs and clothes tossed crates of tea into Boston Harbor, harkening back to pre-Revolutionary War protests in that city against British taxation policies.

"I think it's only a matter of time before these people quit carrying signs and start doing something else," said Ed McQueen, an Ohio resident who attended the Chicago rally. "What that is, I don't know. Quit paying taxes? Are they going to start carrying sticks and clubs? I don't know." See McQueen's photos

Conservatives borrowed a page from President Obama's Web-savvy style to promote the gatherings on videos and blogs.

But many insisted protesters' grievances cut across party lines, reflecting a general anger among people who contend the government takes too much from their pocketbooks.

"The importance of these tea parties is to let our elected officials know that there's a lot of people out there who are unhappy. They're not Republicans, they're not Democrats, they're everyday Americans who are concerned about our taxes," said said T.J. Welsh, an organizer of a protest attended by thousands in Jacksonville, Florida.

Financial-industry and automotive bailouts were launched at the end of George W. Bush's presidency, but many demonstrators aimed their words and signs at the Obama administration, criticizing it in part for the recently passed stimulus package. See map showing where some tea parties took place

The $787 billion economic stimulus bill President Obama signed in February "was basically shoved down the throat of the American people," Welsh said.

"Now is not the time to be running a $700 billion dollar plus budget through that people did not talk about, that people did not read," Welsh said.

Along with concerns over too many taxes and excessive bailouts, a common theme that emerged from the demonstrations was the threat of big government on the lives of individual citizens.

"People are tired of the nanny state and the growth of government, tired of having our money basically robbed," a demonstrator in Jacksonville said. "[We] want to return to constitutional form of government, limited government that allows people to be free and independent."

"The biggest problem we have is the government is too big ... real people understand that and say we can't take the burden of a burgeoning government," said former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, whose organization, FreedomWorks, helped organize Wednesday's nationwide event.

"We need to reign in the size of government, and once having done so, we can cut taxes responsibly," he said.

Boston wasn't the only place where protesters played off the pre-Revolutionary War tea-dumping protests. As many Americans rushed to file their tax forms Wednesday, cheering crowds across the country heaved huge coolers with "Tea" painted on the side into bodies of water.

Protesters on Wednesday said that like their colonial forebears, they felt their voices were not being heard by their government.

At one protest Wednesday morning a sign read, "I read as much of the stimulus bill as my Congresswoman." Another read, "You can't put lipstick on socialism."

McQueen, a 44-year-old litigation consultant and CNN iReporter, said he had no problem with paying taxes.

"But when no can tell us where this amount of money is going, no one can sketch it out for us, just seems like an injustice," he said.

Bloggers in Seattle, Washington, were the first to bring conservatives together for a rally on February 16 against what they saw as too many government handouts to banks, the auto and mortgage industries. Protests followed in Colorado and Arizona.

The embers turned into a raging fire when later that month, CNBC personality Rick Santelli went off on Obama's policies live on air.

"The government is promoting bad behavior," Santelli said, asking why Obama would make Americans who pay their bills subsidize the mortgages of "losers."

Santelli said he wanted a tea party to happen in Chicago, Illinois, to stand up and angrily demand "No more."

Cheers erupted behind him on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange floor and a video of the rant became viral, drawing comparisons of Santelli to Howard Beale, the fictional "mad as hell" anchorman in the 1976 movie "Network."

The outrage spread, prompting rallies in the Midwest and the South.

Pajamas TV, a conservative Web site that says it gets about 1 million viewers a week, ran streaming video from several protests. PJTV hired McCain campaign poster boy Samuel Joseph "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher to act as a reporter at one of the protests. At least one video shows a protester asking Wurzelbacher if he would like to waterboard Obama.

"I don't approve of that," said Pajamas TV CEO Roger L. Simon. "I would like to hope, and I think, that most people are respectful."

Liberal tea party critics aren't buying it. They call the protests "Astroturf," saying they aren't real grassroots events, but are organized by old-fashioned Republican Party bosses.

The events have been promoted in part by FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity, whose Web site says it engages citizens "in the name of limited government and free markets."

"Groups like Americans for Prosperity [are] working and helping an organizing, but no one group, no one organization, no one political party could pull off something like this," Americans for Prosperity president Tim Phillips said. Tax protest brewing in San Antonio

In remarks in Washington on Wednesday, Obama said he'd been true to campaign promises to lessen the tax burden on most Americans.

"My administration has taken far-reaching action to give tax cuts to Americans who need them while jump-starting growth and job creation in the process," the president said.

A tax cut enacted April 1, Obama said, "will reach 120 million families and put $120 billion directly into their pockets."

The plan offers a refundable tax credit of up to $400 for working individuals and up to $800 for married taxpayers who file joint returns, according to the IRS.

Not everyone disapproves of Obama's tax policies. In March, 62 percent of people taking a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll said they approved how Obama is handling taxes. The sampling error was plus or minus 4.5 percent.

~ ~ ~

plez sez: 'nuff said! NO ONE likes paying taxes. the only people who received a benefit from the bailouts were the top tier executives of the companies who received them.

[Hat Tip: Kimistry 101]

the whole idea of a tax day revolt was a publicity stunt by a handful of republicans trying to find a way to make themselves relevant during a time that their party is mired in irrelevancy! every argument made today (save the attacks on Obama) could've been leveled against george w. bush. so the impetus behind their drinking their haterade-flavored tea is quite evident... and it ain't got nothing to do with taxes!

~ ~ Citations ~ ~

Read the coverage of the Atlanta "Tea Party".

Read the New York Times op-ed piece titled "Tea Partied Forever."

Read the Washington Post article about how the anti-tax protests devolved into anti-Obama rants.

Read the article about the nationwide "tea party".

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Brown Man said...

Come on, news media.

THIS is why the internet is taking your viewership/readership.

Not one anti-tax expert on stage at an anti-tax rally?

These "HATE THE NEGRO PRESIDENT" rallies look so much like lynch mobs you can almost smell it through your TV screen.

This thing is testing Ex-Crackers like they've never been tested before.

Kim said...

Those were nothing but a bunch of klan rallies. Did you see those hate signs over at Huffington Post. I could only just shake my head, but I loved what Janeane Garalfolo said on Olbermann.

here's the link.