12.19.2013 2

The mad tea party

mad hatterBy Robert Romano

Former president and current chair and counselor of the Center for American Progress, who will be joining the Obama administration as a special advisor, recently had to apologize for remarks comparing certain Republicans in the House of Representatives to a “[suicide] cult worthy of Jonestown.”

“In an old interview, my snark got in front of my judgment. I apologize to Speaker Boehner, whom I have always respected,” Podesta wrote in a post to his Twitter account. Thanks for clearing that up. He did not mean Boehner or House leadership.

He was talking about the tea party.

The interview in question was actually not that “old” at all, either, it was just a couple of months ago. According to the Politico’s Glenn Thrush, “he spoke with me earlier this fall.”

The thrust of Podesta’s comment, though, was not simply name-calling (although there is a method to the madness there too we shall arrive at in a moment), it was that Obama was unlikely to achieve his agenda legislatively without control of the House, and so he should continue to rely on arbitrary executive action for the remainder of his term.

“They need to focus on executive action,” said Podesta, referring to the White House, adding, “I think [White House officials] were naturally preoccupied with legislating at first… They have to realize that the president has broad authority, that he’s not just the prime minister. He can drive a whole range of action. They always grasped that on foreign policy and in the national security area. Now they are doing it on the domestic side.”

Undoubtedly, the comments came in or about the time of the 16-day government shutdown, and reflect a growing antipathy on not just the left but of the establishment directed not merely at certain Republicans in the House, but of the tea party and anyone else who dares to oppose the continued spend-a-thon in Washington, D.C.

So, the narrative goes, now being advanced by House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), it was the tea party that forced him to shut down the government. Recently, he said, “They pushed us into this fight to defund Obamacare and to shut down the government. Most of you know that wasn’t exactly the strategy I had in mind.”

This, after Boehner was the visible principal spokesperson for the House during the shutdown and repeatedly made arguments on behalf of defunding the health care law before it went into effect.

Just three months ago, Boehner was singing a different tune. At the time he said, “We’re going to continue to do everything we can to repeal the President’s failed health care law. This week the House will pass a continuing resolution that locks the sequester savings in and defunds Obamacare.”

His staff even posted the videos with headlines like, “Boehner discusses debt limit, defunding Obamacare,” and “Fight to defund Obamacare moving to Senate.”

What a phony.

Boehner then lashed out against organizations that had blasted the recent Ryan-Murray budget deal that raises defense and non-defense discretionary spending beyond sequester by $63 billion. He and the bill’s supporters pretended the only alternative to the deal was another shutdown, when even a basic continuing resolution that changed nothing with the current baseline could have sufficed.

After all, there was no real push to use the budget negotiations as some sort of leverage to cut spending and achieve other concessions as there was in 2011’s Cut Cap and Balance or 2013’s defund Obamacare effort.

It’s a boogeyman. There was no risk of a shutdown this time around.

The “averted shutdown” narrative around this most recent budget deal is really just a distraction from the corporate, government labor, and other special interests that benefit directly from increasing defense and non-defense discretionary spending by $63 billion over the next two years.

But perhaps Boehner thinks those who supported defunding Obamacare are a suicide cult, too, which brings us back to Podesta’s comments — and more importantly those who support his organization, the Center for American Progress (CAP).

A recent disclosure of donors to CAP found that much of corporate America is giving money to the political left — everyone from Walmart to Coca Cola to Pepsi to AT&T to Quest Diagnostics to Google to Facebook to GE to Wells Fargo to Bank of America and on and on. You can’t even go shopping, or hit up a vending machine, or get a blood test, or go online and look at Internet ads, or make an interest payment on your mortgage without bankrolling the left.

Should we assume these corporations agree with Podesta’s suicide cult summation of free market and limited government candidates and groups that support stopping the health care law or getting the budget under control?

Apparently so. At least, none of these companies have come forward to put distance between themselves and the comments.

Put it all together and what do you have? Let’s just call them the mad tea party. A concerted effort by the Obama Administration, corporate interests, left-wing ideologues and Republican congressional leaders to take out the real tea party. Why?

Because the tea party has been effective, and were, along with other free market and limited government groups, instrumental in Republicans’ 2010 victory, and then the pushes for a showdown over the debt ceiling that resulted in sequestration, and for defunding Obamacare in the 2013 continuing resolution.

They actually changed the way members of Congress were voting on budget issues not once, but twice — with a fraction of the resources wielded by CAP, the Chamber, Congress, the White House bully pulpit, and a largely compliant press corps.

If the tea party or Senators like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Marco Rubio did not pose a mortal threat to the status quo, they would be ignored. But they are not being ignored.

This is the same thing every authoritarian regime does when demonizing legitimate opponents or anyone who dares to challenge the ruling party. They must be delegitimized.

Perhaps Podesta, et. al will succeed in the short term, and demonize the tea party to such a degree that nobody dares to use the label. Maybe it will become an anathema.

Even if it does what will remain is tea party-like sentiment against individual and corporate welfare, bailouts, and every other big government boondoggle coming out of Washington, D.C. these days. What will remain are the Ted Cruzes and Mike Lees, who will only grow in number and pick up seats in 2014.

So, the establishment will continue to attempt to get people to disconnect from thinking about real issues, and instead focus on personalities, name-calling, and in-fighting. That’s what the mad tea party does. They want to suppress turnout by poisoning the well and getting the American people to disengage from the political process.

Don’t let them. For, it is this wrath of the American people that is more dangerous to them than anything else. So, perhaps it’s time to get fired up, instead, and get engaged, particularly with the election year coming up. Keep fighting!

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government. 

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