Only in America does the term “tea party” sound ominous. In much of the world, it’s a high-falootin,’ civilized gathering. In the U.S., it has meant tax rebellion ever since a few Boston patriots decided they liked their tea mixed with salt water instead of sugar.
Last week CNBC’s Rick Santelli made national news when he called for a “Chicago tea party” in a populist rant so powerful that the White House had to scramble to respond. With more than 2 million views, his anger and frustration have poured across the internet. Liberals who only recently celebrated the new era of progressive politics suddenly feared the discontented masses. Naturally, the rest of the media wanted nothing more than to blame the messenger for what MSNBC’s Chris Matthews called the “Ebenezer Scrooge-Rick Santelli position” against the housing bailout.
You might say Obama’s media fans were tea-ed off, and they weren’t alone.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs wasn’t genteel in response. “Mr. Santelli has argued, I think quite wrongly, that this plan won't help everyone,” Gibbs said. So now the Obama plan won’t just “drive down mortgage rates for millions of Americans,” as Gibbs told the press. It’s so perfect that it will help everyone. That’s exactly what Gibbs was saying.
Of course, he’s wrong. It won’t help you if you have to pay for it. And according to some in the press corps, Obama is already picking out politically correct targets for hefty tax hikes to pay for the multi-trillion-dollar welfare state he is building. The Feb. 22 Washington Post declared Obama’s budget will be funded “primarily by raising taxes on businesses and the wealthy.”
Raising taxes in the middle of a tough recession? No wonder many are clamoring for a spot of tea while the Obama folks are in a spot of trouble.
But the bobbing and weaving press secretary still maintains that everyone will benefit from the plan. Perhaps Gibbs tied one of those signature pinks ties too tight around his neck that day. The blood certainly seemed to rush to his head in his micro-rant against Santelli as he offered to buy the CNBC reporter a cup of coffee – “decaf” – to take one last smack at his opponent.
Maybe Gibbs needs to try drinking the decaf instead of the Kool-Aid himself. Then he wouldn’t get so angry at a bit of well-deserved criticism. Unlike Gibbs, Santelli works with the traders and hears their complaints every day. If he’s angry, it’s because they’re angry.
It’s because millions of us are angry. That anger is more than the Obama camp is ready for. Anger at Wall Street fits their agenda. Anger over the president’s plan earns a hasty rebuke from Gibbs or Obama.
And of course the media is distressed at Obama getting an early tea time.
Matthews’ partner-in-slime Keith Olbermann rated Santelli, who works for the same parent company, as one of his “worst people.” MSNBC’s Mighty Mouth said Santelli was out of touch and complained bitterly that “businesspeople in this country right now are viewed like actors were after Booth shot Lincoln.”
The Obama Network wasn’t alone in its support for the president. Bloomberg’s executive editor for Washington Albert R. Hunt called Santelli’s comments “so sophomoric,” while the Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik complained about on-air correspondents who “behave like clowns and would-be demagogues.”
Where were these paragons of journalistic virtue when the bulk of the news media showered Obama with love during the campaign? I guess it’s OK to gush over The One, just don’t question Him.
It was a predictable script and Gibbs seemed warmed by the support. So, for the second time in a month, the prickly White House lashed out at opponents. Last time it was talk radio star Rush Limbaugh. This time, a lowly CNBC financial reporter. Gibbs was so annoyed with Santelli that he referenced him six separate times by name during the press conference.
This is the MO for the Obama team when backed into a corner ever so slightly. They kicked reporters off the plane during the campaign after some media outlets actually backed Sen. John McCain instead.
Instead of a swift kick, Gibbs warned that it was up to “people who rant on cable television to be responsible and understand what it is they're talking about.”
It’s apparently not “responsible” to challenge the president, but OK when Obama talks down the economy calling this the “most profound economic emergency since the Great Depression.” What the White House and the media really mean is they want opponents to shut up because they fear an angry America will blame Obama for his obvious failures handling the economy.
When all is said and done, maybe the Obama administration will discover populism isn’t its cup of tea after all.