Tea Party Activists: Just Shills for Oil Spills?

Frank Rich has stumbled onto the dark secret of the Tea Party movement: They're just shills for BP! That's one of the more interesting revelations from his latest Sunday Week in Review column, "Clean the Gulf, Clean House, Clear Their Clock."

Rich began by trilling a few verses of the bipartisan chorus knocking Obama's Oval Office oil spill speech. He also became one of the few media mavens to spotlight Obama's quote from early April (the pre-BP era) that "oil rigs today generally don't cause spills." But he also joined a burgeoning stable of Times columnists who have found various silver linings in the deadly and environmentally ruinous disaster:

While the greatest environmental disaster in our history is a trying juncture for Obama, it also provides him with a nearly unparalleled opening to make his and government's case. The spill's sole positive benefit has been to unambiguously expose the hard right, for all its populist pandering to the Tea Partiers, as a stalking horse for its most rapacious corporate patrons. If this president can speak lucidly of race to America, he can certainly explain how the antigovernment crusaders are often the paid toadies of bad actors like BP. Such big corporations are only too glad to replace big government with governance of their own, by their own, and for their own profit - while the "small people" are left to eat cake at their tea parties.

Here's the previous roll call of Times columnists finding the bright side:

"Polls show that the country as a whole has lost a lot of its passion for environmental issues. Maybe the oil spill will bring it back. That'd be one bright spot in all this mess." - Columnist Gail Collins May 5 online "conversation" with fellow columnist David Brooks.

"Yeah. I really think this is an opportunity. The President has really got to decide how am I going to deal with this spill? Does he really just want to end the oil spill? Of course he wants to do that. Or does he actually want to give birth to a new energy system that will end our addiction to oil." - Columnist Thomas Friedman on ABC's "Good Morning America" May 6.

"If there's any silver lining to the disaster in the gulf, it is that it may serve as a wake-up call, a reminder that we need politicians who believe in good government, because there are some jobs only the government can do." - Columnist Paul Krugman, May 10.

Rich then stumbled onto the truth behind the Tea Party movement: They're actually shills for BP!

These tribunes of the antigovernment right and their Tea Party auxiliaries are clamoring for a new revolution to "take back America" - after which, we now can see, they would hand over America to the likes of BP. Let Deepwater Horizon be ground zero for a 9/11 showdown over the role of government. There couldn't be a riper moment for Obama, as a man once said, to bring it on.

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