Huffington Post contributor, Ellis Weiner, recently issued forth a partisan-fueled diatribe called “Tea Party Animals”, in which he bashes George W. Bush and Tea Party intellect. While there are some kernels of thought-provoking analysis, the rant serves as yet another example of rage-filled, inconsistent partisan rhetoric that further polarizes an already deeply polarized nation.
In his blog, Weiner mocks the Tea Party as largely devoid of political and intellectual substance, claiming that is more of a display of confusion, anger, and breath-taking ignorance after the collapse of the Bush era. He cites inflammatory slogans, anti-Obama rhetoric, and “silly costumes” as clear-cut evidence of its folly. He also insults George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Fox News along the way.
To be fair, the substance of several of his criticisms may be valid. For example, the Tea Party possesses a strong strain of anti-Obama, anti-Democrat rancor. Except for the Ron Paul segment, which originated the pre-Obama Tea Party movement and called out the GOP before Bush left office, much of the Tea Party rhetoric is seemingly partisan-based. The post-Obama Tea Party movement was nowhere to be found as Bush & Republican members of Congress ran huge deficits, exploded the national debt, and initiated the Wall St bailouts.
However, it should also be noted that according to one reputable, right-leaning polling firm, as many as 13% of Democrats, and 28% of Independents support the Tea Party movement. In addition, the Tea Party has even officially endorsed its first Democratic candidate. In defense of the Tea Party, it may be expanding across the political spectrum more than Weiner is willing to concede.
Weiner excoriates George W. Bush and Sarah Palin, and despite his vitriolic language, here too, there is some degree of truth behind the offensive language. After all, Bush and a largely Republican Congress did borrow and spend America into oblivion. They did implement some highly controversial national security policies which to some, seemed to be a blatant violation of several, sacred Constitutional principles. A PTSD epidemic and record suicide rate in the military did explode onto the scene with multiple, open-ended wars.
And Palin, despite her current embrace of fiscal conservatism, defended the Wall St bailout and the budget busting policies of John McCain while on the campaign trail in 2008.
So yes, there are valid reasons to question the consistency and intentions of the post-Obama tea party movement and Sarah Palin’s rise to tea party stardom. These concerns deserve a fair hearing and objective critique.
But, on the other side of the coin, Weiner appears to be blinded by his own partisan bias. For example, when referring to the Bush era, he characterizes it as:
the one of unjustified war, rampant lies, secret torture, domestic spying, tax cuts for the rich, government-by-crony, and utter economic stagnation for the middle class?
A more objective observer would likely ask, “How are Obama and the Democratic Congress really any different?” Obama has skyrocketed the number of Drone attacks, attacks that have killed hundreds of innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan. These attacks are largely executed by the CIA, without any oversight at all.
In addition, under Obama’s leadership, there are over 200,000 private war contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, portions of which are not subject to any oversight by the US military. The US is now conducting increasing operations in Pakistan and Yemen, without any Declaration of War or Letters of Marque & Reprisal as the Constitution mandates.
Guantanamo Bay is still open, and Afghanistan’s “Guantanamo Bay” in Bagram is expanding in its detainment role. Obama supports prolonged detention of “suspected terrorists”, and he & Congress just extended three provisions of the Patriot Act.
Obama hasn’t endorsed tax cuts for the rich, but almost 50% of Americans didn’t have to pay the federal income tax this year, a tax rebate extravaganza that has not been balanced by any spending cuts (just like the Bush administration) and is poised to push the budget deficit to a mind-bending $1.6 trillion this year.
And “government-by-crony”? One look at Obama’s cabinet and advisory circle, and one sees the usual ties to the Federal Reserve, Goldman Sachs, and other fat-cat lobbyists.
And what about “economic stagnation for the middle class”? Under Obama, middle class incomes have remained virtually stagant and real unemployment is well above 10%, as Wall St has enjoyed an explosive rally off its record lows in March 2009.
Now, to be fair, Weiner implies that a few of these policies haven’t changed since Bush, but he fails to apply the same, rigorous critiques of the Bush administration to the Obama administration and Democratic-led Congress.
His ridicule of Limbaugh, Beck, and Fox News also carries some merit, but it also fails to address a similar phenomenon in the liberal media as well. Yes, Limbaugh, Beck, and Fox News can fuel anti-Obama and anti-Democrat rage amongst conservatives, but Olbermann, Matthews, Maddow, and other liberal icons play the same exact game. Both sides of the media thrive on the partisan division, while neglecting the hypocrisy and culpability of their own politicians.
While insulting the Tea Party, Weiner also fails to identify that two major camps within the movement have emerged: the Palin and Paul factions. He exorciates Palin but fails to tackle the Ron Paul faction, a faction that has long been consistent in its criticism of both the Obama and Bush administrations.
Unlike Palin, Paul appears to be gaining support from Democrats, Independents, and Republicans on a slate of different issues, ranging from a more non-interventionist foreign policy, to balanced budgets, states’ rights, protecting civil liberties, and auditing the Federal Reserve.
Finally, Weiner, apparently blinded by his own partisanship, may be vastly underestimating the potential of the Tea Party movement, strictly from a politically pragmatic perspective.
Whether one agrees or disagrees with the Tea Party, or certain segments of it, the polls continue to reveal that it is a force to be reckoned with, and Weiner & left-leaning ideologues will only embolden the right-leaning movement with their constant barrage of political invective.