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Context of 'August 11, 2009: Obama: ‘Wild Misrepresentations’ Hindering Progress towards Health Care Reform'

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Oklahoma Highway Patrolman Charles Hanger.Oklahoma Highway Patrolman Charles Hanger. [Source: The Oklahoman]Timothy McVeigh, who has just detonated a massive fertilizer bomb that has devasted the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), gets into his Mercury Marquis getaway car (see April 13, 1995) and flees north out of the city (see 9:02 a.m. and After, April 19, 1995). At 10:17 a.m., while driving north on I-35 outside of Billings, Oklahoma, about 60 miles north of Oklahoma City, McVeigh is stopped for having no license plates on his vehicle by Oklahoma Highway Patrolman Charles Hanger, a trooper nicknamed “The Hangman” for his zeal in pursuing violators. According to later testimony, there is a radio blackout in force because of the bombing, allowing police to keep the airwaves clear. Hanger had been ordered to go to Oklahoma City, but then had those orders countermanded and was told to resume his duties.
Roadside Stop - Hanger stops McVeigh’s car and calls his office on a cellphone to check the car, but forgets to activate his dashboard camera, so no video record of the arrest is made. Hanger later says he was apprehensive because another trooper had been shot on the same highway two weeks earlier. McVeigh, cooperating with Hanger’s directions, exits the vehicle and begins walking towards Hanger, hands empty. “I stopped you because you weren’t displaying a tag,” Hanger says. McVeigh looks at the rear of his car, clearly unaware that he lacks a license plate. He says he has not had the car long and that is why he lacks a plate. Hanger asks to see a bill of sale, and McVeigh tells him the paperwork is still being drawn up. Hanger does not believe this statement, and asks to see McVeigh’s driver’s license. McVeigh reaches into his back pocket and takes out a camouflage-colored billfold. As he does so, Hanger notices a bulge under McVeigh’s windbreaker. Hanger asks McVeigh to pull open his windbreaker. McVeigh says calmly, “I have a gun.” Hanger orders, “Get your hands up and turn around.” McVeigh complies. Hanger puts the muzzle of his gun to the back of McVeigh’s head. He orders McVeigh to walk to the back of his car. “My weapon is loaded,” McVeigh says. “So is mine,” Hanger replies. He then tells McVeigh to place his hands flat on the trunk of the Mercury and spread his legs. McVeigh complies. Hanger removes the pistol from McVeigh’s shoulder holster and tosses it onto the shoulder of the road, well out of McVeigh’s reach. McVeigh tells Hanger he has another ammunition clip on his belt, and Hanger removes this as well. “I also have a knife,” McVeigh says. Hanger removes the blade from a brown leather sheath and throws it to the roadway. “Why the loaded firearm?” Hanger asks. “I have a right to carry it for protection,” McVeigh replies. Hanger handcuffs McVeigh, walks him to his squad car, and puts him in the front passenger seat, belting him in. He then goes back to pick up the gun, the ammunition clip, and the knife. McVeigh, at Hanger’s request, recites the serial number of the Glock. Hanger comments, “Most wouldn’t know the serial number on their weapon,” and McVeigh replies, “I do.”
Arrest and Booking - The dispatcher reports over the radio that Timothy James McVeigh has no outstanding warrants, and there is nothing in the system on the Mercury or on McVeigh’s pistol. Hanger arrests McVeigh for having no vehicle registration, no license plates, and carrying a concealed weapon—a loaded 9mm Glock semiautomatic pistol (see August 16, 1991). According to prosecutors and Hanger’s own recollections, McVeigh is very polite and cooperative with Hanger, answering questions, “yes sir,” and “no sir,” and saying he has served in the military and as a security guard. “No, sir, I did not intend to break your laws,” he tells Hanger. “I just carry the gun for protection.” Hanger later says he interviews McVeigh in the car, but will say: “I didn’t take any notes. It was just friendly chit-chat.” McVeigh tells Hanger that he just bought the car from a Firestone dealership in Junction City. Hanger has his dispatcher call for information on the car. Hanger searches the Mercury, finding nothing of immediate interest, but when he walks back to his car, he notices McVeigh fidgeting in his seat (see April 21, 1995). Hanger asks if McVeigh wants his car towed into town (at his own expense) or left on the road; McVeigh tells him to leave it where it is. Hanger locks the car and drives McVeigh to Perry, Oklahoma. During the trip, McVeigh asks Hanger again and again when he can get his gun back. Sometime around 11:00 a.m., McVeigh is booked and lodged in the county jail in the Noble County Courthouse in Perry. He is given prisoner number 95-057, photographed, and fingerprinted. Except for one brief demand to know when he will go to court, courthouse officials remember McVeigh as polite and soft-spoken. Hanger has no idea who he has caught; he takes his wife to lunch before turning in the gun and ammunition he confiscated from McVeigh. [Washington Post, 4/22/1995; New York Times, 4/22/1995; New York Times, 4/22/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; New York Times, 4/29/1997; New York Times, 6/3/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 176-180; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Indianapolis Star, 2003; Fox News, 4/13/2005; University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 2006] McVeigh has a permit to carry the gun, but is in violation of the law because he is carrying it concealed, and because he has another weapon, the knife, also on his person. [New York Times, 4/23/1995] Later, Assistant District Attorney Mark Gibson says that Hanger, suspicious by nature anyway, had trouble with McVeigh’s story. “Particularly with his story that he was always on the road, he just didn’t believe,” Gibson will say. “And when he grabbed his gun and there was no reaction, no shock, that didn’t seem right, either. Neither did his story. Charlie said, ‘If you were in the military, when were you a security guard?’ and he said when he was on vacation. So things didn’t really jibe.” [New York Times, 4/23/1995] McVeigh’s gun is later found to be loaded with at least one Black Talon “cop-killer” bullet capable of penetrating body armor. [New York Times, 4/22/1995; New York Times, 4/22/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 177] Pat Livingston, a pawn shop owner in Ogden, Kansas, will recall selling McVeigh’s friend Terry Nichols two Glock semiautomatic pistols in February 1995. He also recalls selling McVeigh a similar Glock in 1991, and a Tec-9 assault pistol in 1993 (see February - July 1994). Livingston later says he remembers McVeigh well: “I knew that name as soon as I saw it on TV. That guy McVeigh, he wrote me a hot check for the Tec-9 in 1993.” [New York Times, 4/23/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996] Author Richard A. Serrano will later report that the pistol McVeigh is carrying is a .45-caliber Glock military assault pistol, Model 2.1. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 177] Left in McVeigh’s car are a blue baseball cap and a legal-sized envelope, sealed and stuffed with documents and clippings. Some of the documents include an excerpt from the racially inflammatory novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978), quotes from Revolutionary War figures, and newspaer clippings. [New York Times, 4/29/1997]
False Driver's License Leads to Clues - Though he presents a false driver’s license, in the name of “Robert Kling” (see Mid-March, 1995 and April 15, 1995), McVeigh gives his home address as 3616 Van Dyke Street, Decker, Michigan. The address is the farm of James Nichols, the brother of Terry Nichols (see December 22 or 23, 1988). This information leads federal agents to both the Nichols brothers (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995) and later to McVeigh himself as a suspect in the bombing. [Washington Post, 4/22/1995; New York Times, 6/3/1997] McVeigh lists James Nichols as his “next of kin.” [New York Times, 4/23/1995] Some versions of events have McVeigh destroying the Kling driver’s license (see 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995), giving Hanger his real license, and citing the Decker, Michigan, address as an emergency contact. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 178-180] McVeigh empties his pockets at the jail: the contents include $650, four rounds of ammunition, his billfold, keys, yellow coins, a roll of antacids, and a set of earplugs, which will later be tested for explosive residue. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 191; Serrano, 1998, pp. 181]
Oddities - Later, the FBI speculates that the Arizona license plate, bearing the number LZC646, the Mercury once bore fell off sometime between the time McVeigh bought the car and the time Hanger pulled him over. It is also possible, the FBI will say, that McVeigh or his accomplice moved the license plate to another car after the bombing (see April 29, 1995). The license plate was originally registered on February 1, 1995 to a 1983 Pontiac station wagon owned by McVeigh (see January 1 - January 8, 1995), who then gave a mail drop in Kingman, Arizona (see February - July 1994), as his address. Press reports later claim that McVeigh traded the Pontiac and $250 in cash for the Mercury, and put the Pontiac’s license plate on the Mercury (a later press report states that McVeigh may have forgotten to transfer the Pontiac’s license plate to the Mercury—see May 16, 1995). A statement by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) says the Kingman mail drop address was used by a “T. Tuttle” (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994 and December 1993) in 1993 to advertise a “LAW launcher replica,” which the advertisement said fired “37 mm flares,” for sale in The Spotlight, a publication of the anti-Semitic Liberty Lobby. A LAW is a “light anti-tank weapon.” [New York Times, 4/27/1995]

Entity Tags: Mark Gibson, James Nichols, Charles Hanger, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Timothy James McVeigh, Richard A. Serrano, Pat Livingston, Noble County Courthouse (Perry, Oklahoma), Anti-Defamation League, Terry Lynn Nichols

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Sarah Palin holds her youngest child, Trig, for the cameras.Sarah Palin holds her youngest child, Trig, for the cameras. [Source: Hollywood Gossip]Former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), the Republican vice presidential candidate in 2008, writes on her Facebook page that the Democrats’ health care reform package would result in a government “death panel” that would kill her baby, Trig. Her child was born with Down Syndrome. Palin writes: “Americans delve into the disturbing details of the nationalized health care plan that the current administration is rushing through Congress, our collective jaw is dropping, and we’re saying not just no, but hell no!… And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.” Palin also commends Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) for warning the nation about President Obama’s “Orwellian” health care adviser: “Rep. Michele Bachmann highlighted the Orwellian thinking of the president’s health care advisor, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the brother of the White House chief of staff [Rahm Emanuel], in a floor speech to the House of Representatives. I commend her for being a voice for the most precious members of our society, our children and our seniors.” [TPMDC, 8/7/2009; Time, 8/8/2009]
Inspired by Debunked Claims from Industry Lobbyist - Palin’s warning about government “death panels” is inspired by debunked warnings from industry lobbyist Betsy McCaughey and a variety of Republican lawmakers and conservative talk show hosts about the reform proposals’ implicit agenda to kill older Americans faster (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 9, 2009, February 11, 2009, February 18, 2009, May 13, 2009, June 24, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 10, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23-24, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, and July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009). Politico’s Ben Smith writes: “As nonpartisan sources note, the [proposal] deals with medical practitioners helping individuals prepare living wills, powers of attorney, and the like. It’s a long ways from there to a ‘death panel’ where bureaucrats decide who lives or dies.” [Politico, 8/7/2009]
Countering Palin's Assertions - Progressive MSNBC host Rachel Maddow says of Palin’s assertions: “There is no Obama death panel. There’s no plan to kill old people. There’s no plan to kill off any people who aren’t productive enough. There’s no plan to kill off any of Sarah Palin’s children. And if we were actually talking about health care instead of waddling through this free-floating morass of factless partisan rage and corporate opportunism, it would occur to someone to notice that the provision being considered by Congress that has Sarah Palin ranting about Obama death panels and the death of her own children was introduced by Republican Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia (see August 10, 2009). And it’s not about killing old people. It’s about making it easier for old people to create living wills. A similar provision was introduced by another Republican senator, Susan Collins of Maine. This is a Republican idea.” [MSNBC, 8/10/2009] Days later, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) tells an audience: “It does us no good to incite fear in people by saying that there’s these end-of-life provisions, these death panels. Quite honestly, I’m so offended at that terminology because it absolutely isn’t [in the bill]. There is no reason to gin up fear in the American public by saying things that are not included in the bill.… There are things that are in this bill that are bad enough that we don’t need to be making things up.” [Anchorage Daily News, 8/11/2009]

Entity Tags: Ben Smith, Sarah Palin, Obama administration, Lisa Murkowski, Rachel Maddow

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, 2012 Elections, 2010 Elections

Protester William Kostric, bearing his sign and wearing a gun strapped to his leg.Protester William Kostric, bearing his sign and wearing a gun strapped to his leg. [Source: London Daily Mail]President Obama holds a “town hall” meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to discuss health care. Although the audience is allowed to attend on a first-come first-served basis, it is comprised mostly of health care reform supporters. During the event, Obama repeatedly solicits questions from skeptics of his health care plan, telling the audience, “I don’t want people thinking I have a bunch of plants in here.” In his remarks, Obama addresses what he calls some of the “wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to what’s in the [reform] bill.” He says for years, patients have been “held hostage” by insurance companies, and adds that “for all the scare tactics out there, what is truly scary” and risky would be the status quo, such as projections that Medicare will be in the red within five years. [ABC News, 8/11/2009; Think Progress, 8/11/2009] Seventy percent of the participants in the town hall were chosen in a random, online lottery, without consideration of political affiliation. The questions Obama answers are not prescreened. [MSNBC, 8/12/2009]
Debunking 'Death Panels' - Obama opens by saying: “I do hope that we will talk with each other and not over each other. Where we do disagree, let’s disagree over things that are real, not these wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to anything that’s actually been proposed.… Because the way politics works sometimes is that people who want to keep things the way they are will try to scare the heck out of folks. And they’ll create boogeymen out there that just aren’t real.” [MSNBC, 8/12/2009] Obama notes the claim of so-called “death panels that will pull the plug on Grandma,” directly referring to former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK)‘s recent claim that the Democrats intend to create “death panels” that would decide who lives and dies (see August 7, 2009). Obama responds: “[I]t turns out that this, I guess, rose out of a provision in one of the House bills that allowed Medicare to reimburse people for consultations about end-of-life care,” as well as living wills, hospice care, and the like. The “intention” is to help patients prepare for “end of life on their own terms.” Ironically, Obama adds, one of the chief sponsors of this idea is a Republican, Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), who “sensibly thought this would expand people’s options.” (Isakson takes issue with being identified as a sponsor of “end-of-life” counseling—see August 11, 2009). Obama says that beneath the false claims of “death panels” exists a real concern: “if we are reforming the health system to make it more efficient that somehow that will mean rationing of care.” He gives an example of such a concern: “some bureaucrat” saying “You can’t have this test, you can’t have this procedure” because “some bean counter” says so. This will not be the case, Obama says. The reform package would ensure that doctors and patients, not bureaucrats, make such decisions. He notes that insurance company bureaucrats “right now are rationing care.… So why is it that people would prefer having insurance companies making those decisions rather than medical experts and doctors figuring out what are good deals for care?” Obama tells his listeners: “I want to be very clear” about the “underlying fear that people won’t get the care they need. You will have the care you need, but also care that is being denied to you right now—that is what we are fighting for.” [ABC News, 8/11/2009; Think Progress, 8/11/2009]
Countering Claims of 'Enemies List' - Obama also counters recent claims that the White House is attempting to compile a list of “enemies” in asking that emails containing “fishy” health care information be forwarded to it. “Can I just say this is another example of how the media just ends up completely distorting what’s taking place?” he says. “What we’ve said is that if somebody has—if you get an email from somebody that says, for example, ‘ObamaCare is creating a death panel,’ forward us the email and we will answer the question that is being raised in the email. Suddenly, on some of these news outlets, this is being portrayed as Obama collecting an enemies list. Now, come on guys, here I am trying to be responsive to questions that are being raised out there—and I just want to be clear that all we’re trying to do is answer questions.” In recent days, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) claimed that the White House “want[s] information on opponents of its health care plan.” [Think Progress, 8/11/2009]
Advocating Violence outside the Venue - Outside the venue, a man, William Kostric, stands in the crowd with a gun strapped to his leg. Under New Hampshire law, he is within his rights to openly carry a handgun. He carries a sign that reads, “It is time to water the tree of liberty.” MSNBC host Rachel Maddow notes: “It’s a reference, of course, to Thomas Jefferson’s famous words, ‘The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.’ For perspective on the implication of Jefferson’s words in this context being quoted by the guy with the gun at the event as which the president was speaking, when Timothy McVeigh was arrested 90 minutes after the Oklahoma City bombing, he was wearing a t-shirt with that slogan and a picture of Abraham Lincoln on the front and a tree dripping with blood in the back” (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995). Maddow later notes that McVeigh’s shirt bore the words “Sic Semper Tyrannis”—“thus always to tyrants”—the words shouted by Lincoln’s assassin after firing the fatal shot. Another anti-reform protester, Richard Terry Young, is arrested by security officials after sneaking inside the building hours before Obama arrives. He is carrying a knife on his person and a .38 caliber semi-automatic pistol in his truck with a round in the chamber. A number of anti-reform protesters from the New Hampshire Republican Volunteer Coalition also stage a protest outside the event. One advocates murdering all undocumented immigrants: “Why are we bankrupting this country for 21 million illegals who should be sent on the first bus one way back from wherever they come from? We don’t need illegals. Send them home once. Send them home with a bullet in their head the second time. Read what Jefferson said about the Tree of Liberty—it’s coming, baby.” [Think Progress, 8/11/2009; MSNBC, 8/12/2009; MSNBC, 8/13/2009]

Entity Tags: William Kostric, Rachel Maddow, Medicare, New Hampshire Republican Volunteer Coalition, Barack Obama, John Cornyn, Johnny Isakson, Obama administration, Richard Terry Young

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism, 2010 Elections

Progressive MSNBC host Rachel Maddow worries on the air about the possibility of physical violence, and perhaps even political assassinations, being perpetrated as a result of the escalating violent rhetoric surrounding the health care reform debate. In recent days, at least one Democratic lawmaker has been threatened with death (see August 11, 2009), an African-American congressman has been vilified with swastikas and racial slurs (see August 11, 2009 and August 12, 2009), and guns have been brought both openly and surreptitiously to town halls (see August 5, 2009), some with President Obama in attendance (see August 11, 2009). Maddow tells her listeners: “[O]pponents of health care reform have chosen to fight at this time with force and with threats of force. Not just fringe talk show hosts, but members of Congress telling their constituents that Barack Obama is like Hitler; members of the United States senate telling their constituents that they are right to be afraid, that health care reform really is a plot to kill the elderly (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 9, 2009, February 11, 2009, February 18, 2009, May 13, 2009, June 24, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 10, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23-24, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, Shortly Before August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, and August 11, 2009). Corporate funded conservative PR operations promoting those lines of attack and then telling their activists to go put the fear of God into members of Congress (see August 6, 2009). Are we now operating in a political environment which is not just politics as usual, which is not just a rowdy debate? Has enough kerosene been poured on the flames that the possibility of violence—even assassination—is being posited as a real political tactic in the United States? It’s not a rhetorical question. It’s not even a question about rhetoric. Because there are people in this country—people in the health care field, in fact—who have faced the actual threat of assassination as a political tactic (see May 31, 2009).… As the anti-health reform protestors flirt with the same exultation of violence, that same excuses and purported justifications of violence, that echo in the extreme anti-abortion movement in this country, it is worth remembering that the possibility of American politics turning to violence and terrorism—at the fringe—is not all theoretical.” Maddow’s guest, abortion provider Dr. Warren Hern, himself a target of political assassins, tells her: “They have—the anti-abortion movement decided, more than 15 years ago, to use political assassination as a tactic, as a method of not only political expression but a way of organizing their followers and getting support and that’s what they’ve been doing. They’ve been assassinating doctors. And the question I have pointed out when they get through assassinating abortion doctors: who’s next?… [I]t’s very clear that there’s been a progression of violence increasingly toward individuals. And this is one of the frightening trends. And so, we have to be very concerned because the violent and the aggressive rhetoric and action or statements lead to more violent action and to assassination.” [MSNBC, 8/13/2009]

Entity Tags: Barack Obama, Warren Hern, Rachel Maddow, MSNBC

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism

After briefly backing away (see August 10, 2009) from her earlier claim that the Democrats’ health care reform legislation would mandate so-called “death panels” (see August 7, 2009), former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) reiterates her claim. In a post on her Facebook page, Palin writes: “Yesterday President Obama responded to my statement that Democratic health care proposals would lead to rationed care (see August 11, 2009); that the sick, the elderly, and the disabled would suffer the most under such rationing; and that under such a system, these ‘unproductive’ members of society could face the prospect of government bureaucrats determining whether they deserve health care. The provision that President Obama refers to is Section 1233 of HR 3200, entitled ‘Advance Care Planning Consultation.’ With all due respect, it’s misleading for the president to describe this section as an entirely voluntary provision that simply increases the information offered to Medicare recipients.… Section 1233 authorizes advanced care planning consultations for senior citizens on Medicare every five years, and more often ‘if there is a significant change in the health condition of the individual… or upon admission to a skilled nursing facility, a long-term care facility… or a hospice program.‘… President Obama can try to gloss over the effects of government-authorized end-of-life consultations, but the views of one of his top health care advisers are clear enough (see July 23-24, 2009). It’s all just more evidence that the Democratic legislative proposals will lead to health care rationing and more evidence that the top-down plans of government bureaucrats will never result in real health care reform.” Members of Palin’s own party have called her claims inaccurate (see August 11, 2009) and “nuts” (see August 10, 2009), White House press secretary Robert Gibbs has identified Palin as one of the persons responsible for spreading “wrong” information about health care reform, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is using her claims in a fundraising plea to supporters, calling her statement “disgusting” and “outrageous.” [Politico, 8/13/2009]

Entity Tags: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, Medicare, Robert Gibbs

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda

Katie Couric.Katie Couric. [Source: Stylelist (.com)]CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric denounces what she calls the “fear and frustration” being tapped in the sometimes-riotous demonstrations against health care reform. The anti-reform efforts have “stirred [up] a hornets nest,” she writes, and are uncovering “disturbing attitudes and emotions that have nothing to do with policy.” What, she asks, does bringing a handgun to a church where President Obama is speaking have to do with health care policy (see August 11, 2009)? “How does a swastika spray-painted on a congressman’s office further a discussion about Medicare (see August 11, 2009)?” Couric warns her readers that “we can’t let fear and frankly ignorance drown out the serious debate that needs to take place about an issue that affects the lives of millions of people. It’s time for everyone to take a deep breath and to focus on the task at hand before this sideshow drowns out the main event.” [CBS News, 8/14/2009]

Entity Tags: Katie Couric, Barack Obama

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda

Author and historian Rick Perlstein reminds Washington Post readers that the kind of conservative-based outrage against health care reform is nothing new in American history. Asking whether the protests are orchestrated or spontaneous, Perlstein says they are both. “The quiver on the lips of the man pushing the wheelchair (see August 6, 2009), the crazed risk of carrying a pistol around a president (see August 11, 2009)—too heartfelt to be an act. The lockstep strangeness of the mad lies on the protesters’ signs—too uniform to be spontaneous. They are both. If you don’t understand that any moment of genuine political change always produces both, you can’t understand America, where the crazy tree blooms in every moment of liberal ascendancy, and where elites exploit the crazy for their own narrow interests.”
Charges of Soviet-Inspired Treason - In the 1950s, Perlstein writes, Republicans referred to the presidencies of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman as “20 years of treason,” and accused the two of deliberately surrendering the world to communism. Some conservatives leveled the accusation that a new Bible translation was the work of Soviet agents. Then-Vice President Richard Nixon claimed, without proof, that Republicans entering the White House at the beginning of the Eisenhower administration “found in the files a blueprint for socializing America.” When President Kennedy proposed using intercontinental ballistic missiles to form the basis of America’s nuclear defense instead of the traditional long-range bombers, and floated the idea of opening relations with Eastern Bloc nations such as Yugoslavia, conservatives accused him of trying to disarm the US in secret collusion with the USSR.
'National Indignation Convention' - In 1961, thousands of angry conservatives packed a National Indignation Convention in Dallas, where the keynote speaker shouted that he wanted to hang Chief Justice Earl Warren. A Kennedy proposal to expand mental health services included a new facility in Alaska; right-wingers claimed it was actually an internment camp for political dissidents. During the Johnson administration, conservatives claimed that the civil rights movement was conceived and orchestrated in the Soviet Union; many of them claimed that the 1964 Civil Rights Act would “enslave” white Americans.
'Uncanny' Similarities between Then and Now - Perstein notes that the similarities between the protests then and now are “uncanny,” writing: “The various elements—the liberal earnestly confused when rational dialogue won’t hold sway; the anti-liberal rage at a world self-evidently out of joint; and, most of all, their mutual incomprehension—sound as fresh as yesterday’s news. (Internment camps for conservatives? That’s the latest theory of tea party favorite Michael Savage.) The orchestration of incivility happens, too, and it is evil. Liberal power of all sorts induces an organic and crazy-making panic in a considerable number of Americans, while people with no particular susceptibility to existential terror—powerful elites—find reason to stoke and exploit that fear.”
Now, More Success at Manipulating Media, Shaping Policy - Perlstein cites examples of fake “grassroots” letters to newspaper editors written by Nixon administration aides that defended the then-president from Watergate-related charges, and how successful they were in manipulating the discussion. Now, he writes, the “Conservatives have become adept at playing the media for suckers, getting inside the heads of editors and reporters, haunting them with the thought that maybe they are out-of-touch cosmopolitans and that their duty as tribunes of the people’s voices means they should treat Obama’s creation of ‘death panels’ as just another justiciable political claim.” In the 1960s, news anchors such as Walter Cronkite didn’t bother debunking claims about internment facilities for conservative critics, he writes. “The media didn’t adjudicate the ever-present underbrush of American paranoia as a set of ‘conservative claims’ to weigh, horse-race-style, against liberal claims. Back then, a more confident media unequivocally labeled the civic outrage represented by such discourse as ‘extremist’—out of bounds. The tree of crazy is an ever-present aspect of America’s flora. Only now, it’s being watered by misguided he-said-she-said reporting and taking over the forest. Latest word is that the enlightened and mild provision in the draft legislation to help elderly people who want living wills—the one hysterics turned into the ‘death panel’ canard—is losing favor, according to the Wall Street Journal, because of ‘complaints over the provision.’ Good thing our leaders weren’t so cowardly in 1964, or we would never have passed a civil rights bill—because of complaints over the provisions in it that would enslave whites.” [Washington Post, 8/16/2009]

Entity Tags: Rick Perlstein, Michael Savage

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda

Militia member Chris Broughton stands in front of a Phoenix VFW where President Obama is speaking. Broughton wears a pistol on his hip and an assault rifle strapped to his back.Militia member Chris Broughton stands in front of a Phoenix VFW where President Obama is speaking. Broughton wears a pistol on his hip and an assault rifle strapped to his back. [Source: Arizona Republic]Twelve anti-health care reform protesters openly carry firearms outside an event in Phoenix featuring President Obama as the main speaker. One, a man initially identified only as “Chris,” carries an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle strapped to his back. Carrying such weapons is legal in Arizona if the bearer has a permit to carry. Obama is speaking at the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Outside the venue, people both supporting and opposing health care reform stage contentious, but peaceful, protests. [Arizona Republic, 8/17/2009; TPM LiveWire, 8/17/2009]
'Forcefully' Opposing Will of Majority - “Chris,” interviewed by fellow protester Ernest Hancock on a home video posted on YouTube, says, “We will forcefully resist people imposing their will on us through the strength of the majority with a vote.” He also speaks against taxation: “Just because you sic the government on people doesn’t make it morally okay to steal money from people. Taxation is theft.” Asked why he is carrying a weapon, “Chris” responds: “Because I can do it. In Arizona, I still have some freedoms.” He tells Hancock that “it would be insane” not to be armed, and says he wears a gun at all times. “Chris” is asked at the beginning of the video, “You gonna water the tree of liberty?” a reference to a Thomas Jefferson quote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” He responds, “I hope not.” He also comes out “absolutely, totally against” health care reform, saying such a plan would amount to “stealing it from people.” The video is uploaded by two small Phoenix-area libertarian groups, Freedom’s Phoenix and 4409. [TPM LiveWire, 8/17/2009; TPM LiveWire, 8/18/2009]
Veteran: 'I Gave Them the Right' to Protest - Another anti-reform protester, Jim Mariman, identifies himself as a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and says protesters are simply “speaking their hearts and minds.… These people can protest because I gave them the right.” [Arizona Republic, 8/17/2009]
Interview Staged by Violent Militia Supporter - Hancock, who organized “Chris’s” trip to the Obama event and interviewed “Chris” with a 9mm pistol strapped to his leg, is later shown to have close ties to members of the violent Viper Militia group convicted and jailed for plotting to blow up at least seven federal buildings in 1996 (see July 1, 1996). Hancock tells CNN that the entire event, including the “interview,” was staged and planned well in advance. He has known “Chris” for two years because of their mutual work for 2008 presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-TX). Hancock had contacted the Phoenix police two days before the event to alert them to their intent to come armed to the event. He says he was partially motivated to display his weapon because of the controversy surrounding William Kostric, who brought a pistol to a previous Obama event in New Hampshire (see August 11, 2009). CNN’s Rick Sanchez tells Hancock, “A lot of people are going to look at this and say it was a publicity stunt,” and Hancock replies, “Absolutely—you guys are so easy.” Hancock says he, “Chris,” and the 10 other armed protesters all belong to local militia groups. [TPM LiveWire, 8/18/2009; TPM LiveWire, 8/18/2009; MSNBC, 8/20/2009] “Chris” will later be identified as Chris Broughton, a member of Tempe Baptist Church, whose pastor has repeatedly called for the divine assassination of Obama (see January 18, 2009). [Phoenix New Times, 8/29/2009]

Entity Tags: Rick Sanchez, Jim Mariman, Tempe Baptist Church, Freedom’s Phoenix, Barack Obama, Chris Broughton, Ernest Hancock, 4409, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Viper Militia

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism

Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), a key player in the Senate battle over health reform, tries to explain his earlier statements that Iowans were right to “fear” that the federal government would “pull the plug on Grandma” by encouraging American senior citizens to end their lives prematurely (see August 12, 2009). During his explanation, Grassley blames President Obama for his words. On CBS’s Face the Nation, he tells host Bob Schieffer that even though he is aware the House health reform bill “doesn’t intend to” kill senior citizens, he feels he has a responsibility to make such statements: “I said that because—two reasons. Number one, I was responding to a question at my town meetings. I let my constituents set the agenda. A person that asked me that question was reading from language that they got off of the Internet. It scared my constituents. And the specific language I used was language that the president had used at Portsmouth (see August 11, 2009), and I thought that it was—if he used the language, then if I responded exactly the same way, that I had an opposite concern about not using end-of-life counseling for saving money, then I was answering.… You would get into the issue of saving money, and put these three things together and you are scaring a lot of people when I know the Pelosi bill doesn’t intend to do that, but that’s where it leads people to.” Schieffer asks Grassley directly if the House legislation “would pull the plug on Grandma.” Grassley responds, “It won’t do that,” but then goes on to say that such claims are effective: “It just scares the devil out of people. So that [provision for end-of-life counseling] ought to be dropped.” The progressive news and advocacy Web site Think Progress notes that Obama did indeed use the phrase “pull the plug on Grandma,” but he “used it as an example of the lies his opponents were pushing around to scare the American public.” [Think Progress, 8/23/2009]

Entity Tags: Think Progress (.org), Bob Schieffer, Charles Grassley, Barack Obama

Timeline Tags: US Health Care

The Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) interviews David Barstow, the New York Times reporter who just published a front-page research article about the “tea party” movement (see February 15, 2010). Barstow says the article was sparked by the raucous, sometimes-violent events of the “town halls” of the summer of 2009 (see July 23, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 28, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 2, 2009, August 2, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6-7, 2009, August 6-8, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, and August 11, 2009).
Joined Tea Party Express Bus Tour, Stayed in Spokane Afterwards - He joined the Tea Party Express bus tour (see August 28, 2009), and covered over 30 tea party rallies in a little over two weeks. Barstow realized, he says, that the Tea Party Express (TPE) was but one of many distinctive tea party organizations. TPE’s goal is to gain seats for Republicans in Congress, and the tour organizers “were not really representative of the tea party movement as a whole, which was very much a grassroots creation that was drawing in lots of newcomers who were extremely concerned about preserving their independence and not being co-opted.” Some tea party organizers agonized over whether to host the TPE tour in their towns. But, Barstow goes on to say, the bus tour itself was incidental to the final story. He was far more interested in the stories of ordinary Americans like Pam Stout, an interview subject who went from being completely uninvolved in politics to becoming president of her local tea party chapter. So many Americans’ lives have been impacted by the recession, Barstow says, and many of those people have turned to their local tea parties to try to get involved in a movement to express their frustrations and perhaps do something about the government that they blame for allowing the economy to fail. The other driving force behind the tea parties, he says, is the members’ overwhelming fear of “impending tyranny.” Most tea partiers fear that American democracy will disappear, perhaps during their own lifetimes, to be replaced by some form of dictatorship or “one-world government” (see February 4-8, 2010). After the TPE bus tour concluded, Barstow stayed in Spokane, Washington, for the month of October 2009, interviewing many tea partiers and affiliated people. He chose the area because of its history of anti-government activism. He says he wanted to cover not just formal tea party organizations, but other groups with connections to the tea parties, including the 9/12 movement (see March 13, 2009 and After), the John Birch Society (JBS—see March 10, 1961 and December 2011), the Campaign for Liberty, and groups with strong ties to white supremacist militia organizations. From time spent in and around Spokane, he learned that the area’s tea parties are quite disparate and factionalized, though “you can make too much of that. If you spend enough time talking to people in the movement, eventually you hear enough of the same kinds of ideas, the same kinds of concerns, and you begin to recognize what the ideology is, what the paradigm is that they’re operating in.… There’s a fear that both parties have been complicit in this giant charade that has done enormous damage to ordinary Americans. It’s very complex, and yet at the same time there is something coherent about it.”
Increasing Militia Influence - Barstow says the influence of far-right, white supremacist militia groups on the tea party organizations in the Northwest and other areas is increasing. Even tea partiers who do not belong to or support militias often accept the idea of militias and civilian paramilitary training (see April 8, 2009, May 8-15, 2009, January 14, 2010, February 2010, July 23, 2010, August 24, 2010, August 24, 2010, and May 5, 2011).
Understanding the Tea Parties - To understand the tea parties, Barstow says, one must read the literature that informs the movement. He recommends reading books such as W. Cleon Skousen’s The 5000-Year Leap, a radical reinterpretation of the US Constitution; Edward Griffin’s The Creature from Jekyll Island, a book purporting to prove the Federal Reserve is a fraudulent institution; and Atlas Shrugged, the novel by Ayn Rand that explicates her “objectivist” social philosophy. Barstow says the tea party movement is informed by “a robust intellectual subculture” that helps shape members’ world views. According to Barstow, the tea parties are not, as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has maintained, becoming the activist conservative wing of the Republican Party (see April 21, 2010), but something more. “They are seeking a bigger transformation than just nudging the Republican Party a little bit to the right,” Barstow says. “A lot of the coverage is about how these people want smaller government and less taxation. That’s true, and yet it doesn’t completely get what’s going on.” [Columbia Journalism Review, 2/18/2010]

Entity Tags: Tea Party Express, Republican Party, W. Cleon Skousen, Newt Gingrich, Campaign for Liberty, Ayn Rand, 9/12 Project, Columbia Journalism Review, David Barstow, Pam Stout, John Birch Society, Edward Griffin

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Author Amity Shlaes is one of 13 people interviewed by the New York Times about their perceptions of the tea party movement.Author Amity Shlaes is one of 13 people interviewed by the New York Times about their perceptions of the tea party movement. [Source: National Review]The New York Times, in light of a recent poll showing American tea party supporters to be whiter, wealthier, and more conservative than average Americans (see April 14, 2010), interviews a number of prominent historians, journalists, and political analysts about their views on the tea party.
Tea Party Very Similar to Anti-Liberal Organizations of Generations Past - Rick Perlstein, the biographer of former president Richard Nixon and former Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ), writes of his “frustration” at “watching the rise of the tea party movement,” calling it “ugly” and in opposition to “so many of the values I hold dear.” He notes the “overwhelming historical myopia” of the news media’s coverage of the tea party, saying that the current movement is comprised of “the same angry, ill-informed, overwhelmingly white, crypto-corporate paranoiacs that accompany every ascendancy of liberalism within US government” (see February 4-8, 2010, February 15, 2010, September 2010, and August 17, 2011). Perlstein quotes conservative activist Brent Bozell asking, “When was the last time you saw such a spontaneous eruption of conservative grass-roots anger, coast to coast?” and responds: “The answer, of course, is: in 1993. And 1977. And 1961. And so on. And so yet much of the commentariat takes Bozell at his word, reading what is happening as striking and new.” Perlstein writes that the parallels between the current tea party movement and the previous movements opposing the Roosevelt, Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton administrations “are uncanny.… The only thing that changes is the name of the enemy within.” In 1963, accusations flew that President Kennedy was “in bed” with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro to bring socialism to America; today, the accusations are that the “Muslim terrorist” President Obama wants to bring socialism to America, perhaps with the aid of Islamist terror groups. Perlstein says that in years past, the media was far more unflinching at labeling the reactionaries as “fringe” elements. “[B]ack then, they covered the story with much more moral courage and civic wisdom.” Now, Perlstein writes, the media fawns over tea party leaders and the right-wing commentators who promote them (see August 11, 2009).
'Sullen, Defensive Mobilization' of Wealthier Americans who Fear the Poor - Author Michael Lind, the policy director of the centrist New America Foundation, advises Republicans and Democrats both to “ignore this faux populist base of the GOP and focus instead on the genuine swing voters.” Tea partiers, Lind writes, are not “[p]itchfork-wielding populists,” but are closer to “the affluent members of the Liberty League who vilified President Roosevelt in the 1930s (see August 23, 1934 and After)—a sullen, defensive mobilization of the Have-Somes who dread the Have-Nots. The tea partiers put the ‘petty’ in petty bourgeoisie. They are disgruntled conservative Fox Republicans.”
Tea Parties Focusing on Constitutional Issues - Author Steven F. Hayward, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, lauds the tea parties as primarily focused on economic and constitutional issues (see May 2010), and more supportive of gay rights, abortion rights, and limited gun restrictions than the media may admit. Hayward writes that he is surprised that most tea partiers are “more economically secure than the general population” and better-educated than the average American: “[T]he narrative that the tea partiers are a bunch of pitchfork populist rubes becomes harder to maintain.” Racism does not permeate the tea parties, Hayward argues (see February 27, 2009, April 2009, July 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 11, 2009, September 2009, September 14, 2009, October 15, 2009 and After, January 14, 2010, February 2010, March 20, 2010, March 25, 2010, March 26, 2010, May 14, 2010, July 13, 2010, July 14, 2010, July 15, 2010, July 17-18, 2010, August 6, 2010, August 24, 2010, August 24, 2010, September 11, 2010, September 12, 2010, October 10, 2010, October 19, 2010, April 15, 2011, April 16, 2011, May 5, 2011, July 29, 2011 and After, August 22-30, 2011, and December 10, 2011), “though there is some evidence of polarization that is a problem for the tea party as a movement.” Hayward opines that such racism that can be documented in tea party members “is likely an aspect of party politics today.” He also states that tea party supporters do not believe the “birther” conspiracy theory that Obama is not an American citizen any more than the average American, a statement at odds with many other analyses of tea party ideologies (see October 2008, January 8, 2009, June 4, 2009, February 4-8, 2010, February 15, 2010, September 2010, April 13-15, 2011, and July 1-2, 2011), even though the poll shows that only 41 percent of the tea party supporters believe that Obama is a “natural-born citizen.” The driving factor behind so many Americans with no previous history of political involvement is, he writes, the fact that most tea party members “are moderates who are simply shocked by Obama’s great leap forward in the size of government,” and he compares the tea parties to the third-party backers of presidential candidate H. Ross Perot in 1992. He concludes, “The real promise of the tea party movement is that it may lead to a reinvigoration of the idea of constitutional limits on government—an idea liberals may find quaint if not hopelessly obsolete.”
Long-Discredited 'Radical Right' Views Propelling Tea Parties - Author and university professor Alan Wolfe, a self-described liberal, derides the tea parties as little more than a repackaged version of the “radical right” which has long been a part of America’s body politic. The tea party movement, Wolfe writes, has given “American intellectuals whose views have been out of fashion for some time” a new platform with which to express their ideas. The same ideas that drove the McCarthyite “Red scare” of the 1950s are driving the tea parties today, Wolfe writes, and points to the increasing involvement of organizations such as the John Birch Society (JBS—see March 10, 1961) in the tea party movement (see July 22, 2007, August 4, 2008, October 10, 2008, April 13, 2009, April 19, 2010, and August 24, 2010). Like the people who support the JBS both now and in the 1950s, tea partiers are driven “not so much to their economic circumstances as to their status anxieties.” They fear the changing, increasingly diverse and cosmopolitan society around them, and dislike, or sometimes even hate, the seeming “encroachment” of minorities and lower-class Americans on their lives. Wolfe says that the idea that tea party members do not embrace racist values any more than other Americans is specious; their poll responses can be explained, he writes, by noting that “people who respond to them have learned to hide their true feelings.” He concludes: “At the risk of sounding condescending, these people have lost all perspective. They know how to kvetch. They know nothing about what makes their country great. Instead of watching Glenn Beck, I would urge them to learn more about their country’s history—or to go and see a shrink.”
Using Coded Appeals to Race - Law professor Paul Butler writes that while most tea partiers are “more uber-Republicans than Klansmen,” the organizations are very good at using racist “code words” to appeal to racist whites while maintaining plausible deniability about their inherent appeal to racist politics. “The tea party is smart enough not to frame its agenda around white supremacy, but the code words are there,” he writes “[T]he most virulent anti-Obama force in the country is smart enough not to frame its agenda around white supremacy—at least not explicitly.” While most tea partiers were clever enough not to indicate that they were bluntly racist in the poll results, the fact that a strong majority of them “believe that too much has been made of the problems that African-Americans face, and that the administration favors blacks over whites,” is quite telling, Butler writes. “Overwhelmingly they believe that Barack Obama doesn’t share the needs and problems of people like them, or the values of ‘most Americans.’ These code words have been around long enough, everybody gets them.”
Poll Does Not Support Idea that Tea Partiers Embrace Bigotry - Author and columnist Amity Shlaes writes that the poll numbers do not support the “media stereotype” that tea party supporters “are racist or intolerant. The media depicts tea partiers as bigots who look down on minorities, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.” Similarly, she argues, the poll results do not support the idea that tea party supporters believe Obama is a Muslim any more than average Americans do. As the tea party organizers claim, the movement is largely about economics, Shales writes.
Fear of Loss of Control - History professor and author Alan Brinkley calls the tea party “the party of me,” and compares its members demographically to the Americans who supported the McCarthyite “Red scare” inquisitions and the Clinton-era Whitewater investigations—predominantly white males, significantly wealthier than the average American, far more conservative than the mainstream, and fearful of the prospect that conservative white males might not continue to exert control over American society. “[W]hat seems to motivate them the most is a fear of a reduction in their own status—economically and socially,” Brinkley writes. As for their economic worries, he writes, “[T]heir concern is not the state of the economy as a whole, but their own economic conditions.” Brinkley concludes: “The real issue, I believe, is a sense among white males that they are somehow being displaced, that the country is no longer ‘theirs,’ that minorities and immigrants are becoming more and more powerful within society. And, of course, they are right about that. They just fear it more than many other Americans.”
Unrealistic Belief that Government Can Exist without Taxation - Author and former political science professor Lorenzo Morris writes that the tea party’s position on taxes is extremist: “The tea party supporters seem to think that government can exist without taxes.” The American experiment with the Articles of Confederation, which provided no real tax income at all, proves that idea to be wrong, Morris writes, but “[w]ith enough time and historical romanticism, however, bad ideas come back around.” He writes that the current appearance of the tea parties has become less “vitriolic and menacing” than their image from the summer of 2009, when their vociferous and sometimes-violent protesting of health care reform painted them as frightening and bigoted (see July 23, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 28, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 2, 2009, August 2, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6-7, 2009, August 6-8, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, and August 11, 2009). The tea parties have begun to win the approval of right-wing Republican figures, including many of those who intend a presidential run in 2012. But, he concludes, their rigid disapproval of taxes as a concept, and taxation as a reality, means that they will inevitably “repeat the folly of those early Americans who thought there could be government with no taxes.”
Anger without Willingness to Make Real Change - Law professor Susan Estrich notes that the poll indicates a large reservoir of approval for former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), the 2008 vice-presidential nominee for the Republican Party, but a strong doubt that she is competent to lead the nation. “Tea party types may be mad,” Estrich writes, “but they aren’t buying President Palin. And if they aren’t, who would?” Estrich goes on to note that tea party supporters, “like most of us… want to have it both ways: they want their Social Security and smaller government, want major cuts but not in Medicare, which is a little like having your cake and eating it, too. If you want to really reduce the size of government, that means cutting defense and entitlements. If you’re not willing to do that, what you get is big talk and no action, which is ultimately a recipe for anger.” She concludes by calling the racial element “lurking in the polls” “troubling.”
Motivated by Racial Concerns - Author and Democratic activist Bob Moser writes of his familiarity with tea parties in Texas, “where the movement has flared up hotter than just about anywhere else,” and his lack of surprise at the demographics: white, conservative, male, and relatively affluent. The concern about the nation’s economic tribulations, and the anger directed at Obama, is understandable, he writes. However, “[w]hat strikes me is how often America’s great and terrible obsession, race, slithers around the poll numbers.” The poll numbers may not directly bear out the racism and bigotry that exists in the ranks of the tea partiers, Moser writes, “[b]ut it’s impossible to shrug off the collective impressions left by the data. Why, exactly, do 73 percent of tea partiers say that the president does not understand ‘the needs and problems of people like yourself’?” The movement works hard to marginalize Americans who disagree with them, particularly Obama, as un-American, not a member of “we the people.” Moser notes that almost three-quarters of the tea party supporters “say that black and white people have an ‘equal’ chance of ‘getting ahead in today’s society.’ If that’s not colorblindness, it’s certainly some kind of blindness.” Moser concludes by writing that the tea party movement is achieving both goals set by “its corporate Republican conjurers,” both “becoming the political expression of a white-resistance movement being spurred by anxieties over the economy, the black ‘socialist’ president, and the coming end of majority-white America… [and] leaning, at least in 2010, strongly Republican in attitude.”
Healthy Expression of Populism - Political analyst David Gergen writes that the perception of the tea parties as angry, bitter, and divisive is untrue. He describes the latest rally he attended as “festive and friendly.” While many protest higher taxes and bigger government, Gergen writes, their claims that opposing Obama does not entail a racist viewpoint are true. “[M]any feel stung by what they see as misrepresentations in the press,” he writes. Gergen compares the 2010 tea partiers to the Ross Perot voters of 1992: “Those who supported Mr. Perot were mostly white, a little better educated than the general population and much more concerned about government deficits than government peeking into bedrooms. They were also more from the West and South but had pockets of support scattered around the country.” He notes that 18 percent of Americans identify themselves as tea party supporters; in 1992, 19 percent of voters cast their votes for Perot. He calls them a healthy expression of American populism and concludes: “Many of these tea partiers are fearful of how the country is changing. Some circles look down upon them; it would be far wiser to listen, understand and find ways to heal.”
Heralding GOP Success for 2010, Problems Farther On - Andrew Kohut, the president of the Pew Research Center and a political polls expert, says the poll numbers “augur well for the Republicans in November’s midterm elections: the politically energized supra conservatives—the 1 in 5 who are universally disaffected with national conditions, and with Barack Obama and with his policies—are likely to be a strong advantage in the midterms, where typically fewer than 4 of 10 eligible citizens vote.” The Republicans’ biggest challenge is to keep the tea party supporters’ votes while simultaneously attracting independents and moderates. And a move by the GOP to the right, to further embrace the tea partiers, “may not bode well for the party in the longer run, given the new primacy of independent voters, a power that was on full display in 2008.” Moreover, the tea parties may well co-opt the GOP, going from “the tail that wags the dog” to becoming “the dog itself.” Kohut writes: “Looking ahead, our polling suggests that the Republican party needs unifying themes and leadership. A tea party-led GOP may not be the prescription for that.”
Economic Concerns Drive Tea Party Success - Political consultant Douglas Schoen says the fact that almost 1 in 5 Americans support the tea party “extraordinary, given that the movement is not active in half of America and that its name recognition is not universal.” Schoen gives no credence to “what appear to be the class-based or race-based attitudes of the tea party movement,” and writes that the movement is instead propelled by economic concerns. Schoen says that statistics aside, he believes the tea party movement to be far more diverse than the polls indicate (see September 2010). Almost half its supporters identify themselves as non-Republicans, and a quarter of them claim to have voted for Obama in 2008, he says. [New York Times, 4/15/2010]

Entity Tags: Bob Moser, Barack Obama, Amity Shlaes, Alan Wolfe, Alan Brinkley, Susan Estrich, Andrew Kohut, Steven F. Hayward, Paul Butler, Michael Lind, Douglas Schoen, Lorenzo Morris, Brent Bozell, David Gergen, Rick Perlstein, New York Times

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

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