Bruce Bartlett, who has apparently had a chip on his shoulder since he was “killed” by the GOP several years ago, tries to lay the blame for the current budget impasse at the feet of the Tea Party.
Republicans in Congress have reached a crossroads – they must decide if they are a governing party or one so beholden to its ideological fringe that it is incapable of doing the basic work of a legislative body. How the party answers that question will determine not only the direction of policy on key issues and Republican prospects for reelection next year, but who will be president in 2013.
His logic is this: Tea Partiers are crazy, and they are distracting Republican leadership from responsible preparation of the budget by their crazy nuttiness:
So why is it that I have been disdainful of the Tea Party from its first manifestation in early 2009? The main reason is that so many of its members simply don’t know what they are talking about; they seem to think that strong opinions are a substitute for facts, research and analysis. Consequently, many Tea Party members hold views on various topics that are, frankly, nuts, and these views have been embraced by some Republican voters as well.
His proof that Tea Partiers nuts? Well, he cites 3 polls that show that a majority of Republicans believe that Obama is a socialist, that he’s a gun-grabber, that he favors imposing sharia law around the world, and that he’s a Muslim. Oh, and 25% believe that ACORN will steal the election for Obama next year, but (snort!) ACORN doesn’t even exist!! Fools!
Of course, ACORN does still exist – they just changed the name to get away from the notoriety caused by their election fraud charges in 14 states and the O’Keefe video stings. But ignore that inconvenient fact for a moment and note that all of the poll results are for Republicans, not Tea Partiers. Has he really proven anything about Tea Partiers with all these polls? Not at all.
He does eventually get around to the Tea Party per se, but can’t get the story straight:
In a March 14 New York Times report, Utah Tea Party leader Jacqueline Smith said of Huntsman, “On a good day, he’s a socialist. On a bad day, he’s a communist.”
But Jacqueline Smith is not the “Utah Tea Party leader,” she’s the co-founder of Utah Rising, which is a web-based clearinghouse for Tea Party information, and one that apparently hasn’t been updated since last year.
So Bartlett’s claim that many Tea Partiers are “frankly, nuts” is supported by one quote from a Tea Party website manager that may have simply been hyperbole. But how about his claim that the Tea Party is influencing GOP leadership and forcing them to make stupid decisions? He tells us:
This sort of rhetoric serves no useful purpose and is at best distracting. It also elevates minor differences on policy or strategy among Republicans into deep disagreements over principle. This has made it impossible for Congress to finish work on the 2011 budget, which should have been done last summer.
There is no proof of any of this, of course, but I’ll point out that the Tea Party had nothing to do with the Democrats’ decision to abandon passing a budget last summer. The blame for that lies entirely with Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer.
His only other evidence lies with the GOP’s current budget battles over the FY11 spending cuts. He rightly points out that they are trivial, but fears (again, with no evidence) that it’s the desire to placate the Tea Party that has led the GOP to sacrifice so much political capital for so little gain. But the GOP is not only addressing Tea Party critics: the left was quick to pounce and accuse the Boehner of being ineffectual and dishonest by not keeping his promise to cut $100 billion from the budget. And the political capital being sacrificed is due to the Democrats who refuse to consider even these very small cuts in the budget.
Bartlett ends his piece with a bit of motherhood:
It’s possible that the Tea Party will turn out to be a force for good, but increasingly it looks like populist movements of the past that quickly burned out without having a lasting impact on policy. The more quickly the movement matures, learns patience, and becomes sophisticated about the nature of politics, the better its chances of having achieving its goals.
So the Tea Party has gone from being riddled with uneducated, thoughtless loons to having the potential for a significant presence on the political landscape. I don’t see how both can be true, but then, I can’t bend reality with Bartlett’s facility.