The New York Times’ Frank Rich takes a stab at smearing the tea party movement this morning, claiming tea party groups have “common cause” with McVeigh-era militia groups, and concluding that Joseph Andrew Stack, the anti-capitalist/pro-communism suicide pilot, somehow demonstrates his point. These outlandish claims emanate from the Times despite recent mainstream media recognition, even by the left-leaning Associated Press, that the tea party movement is a non-violent, “antiestablishment, grass-roots network motivated by anger over the growth of government, budget-busting spending and Obama’s policies.” Here is Rich’s ridiculous smearing of the tea party movement as the latter-day successors to the militias of the McVeigh era:
It is not glib or inaccurate to invoke Oklahoma City in this context, because the acrid stench of 1995 is back in the air. Two days before Stack’s suicide mission, The Times published David Barstow’s chilling, months-long investigation of the Tea Party movement. Anyone who was cognizant during the McVeigh firestorm would recognize the old warning signs re-emerging from the mists of history. The Patriot movement. “The New World Order,” with its shadowy conspiracies hatched by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission. Sandpoint, Idaho. White supremacists. Militias.
Barstow confirmed what the Southern Poverty Law Center had found in its report last year: the unhinged and sometimes armed anti-government right that was thought to have vaporized after its Oklahoma apotheosis is making a comeback. And now it is finding common cause with some elements of the diverse, far-flung and still inchoate Tea Party movement. All it takes is a few self-styled “patriots” to sow havoc.
Rich’s NYT editorial then continues on with unsupportable fear mongering that the tea party’s “ideology is far more troubling than the boilerplate corporate conservatism and knee-jerk obstructionism of the anti-Obama G.O.P. Congressional minority.” Basically Rich is saying here that the GOP has no control over the tea party, and they are so crazy that their very existence is “far more troubling” than the national Republican party. While this runs counter to Pelosi’s claim of GOP control of the tea party movement in her interview on ABC’s This Week today, the hysteria in his commentary is particularly odious as the “ideology” Rich is so troubled by is simply a limited government, low spending, low tax, strong national defense point of view – hardly revolutionary ideas. It seems the real problem for Rich is that he considers the national GOP “domesticated” to some extent regarding big government policies, and therefore preferable to the explicitly anti-big government stance of the tea party movement.
It seems clear that Rich’s NYT column today comparing the tea party to terrorists and McVeigh-era militia groups and Robert Wright’s NYT column last week entitled “The First Tea Party Terrorist” are part of a coordinated push on the American left to demonize the the party as terrorist-linked extremists in the runup to the November 2010 elections. Indeed, last week reports surfaced that James Carville, a senior Clinton-era Democratic strategist (who coincidentally used the McVeigh bombing to successfully demonize Newt Gingrich while working for Clinton) is apparently pushing the strategy. One huge problem with Carville and the Democrats’ attempt to recycle the demonization strategy that was so successful for former President Clinton in 1995 is that the tea party movement is not violent nor a militia. No serious violent incidents by tea party protesters were reported despite hundreds, if not thousands, of such tea party protests occurring across America in the past year.
Accordingly, desperate for some facts to hang the Carville smear strategy on, the left has turned to suicide pilot Joseph Andrew Stack, who flew his plane into a federal building earlier this month in Austin, Texas, killing one IRS employee and wounding many others. Rich and Wright both claim that Stack was a tea partier because of his anti-IRS views, but those views seem to be created by the decades of disputes Stack had with the IRS personally, not an outside ideology of anti-government as a whole. Further, Stack’s suicide note manifesto concludes with the following two sentences in praise of Communism:
The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.
The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.
By all accounts, the tea party movement draws its ranks from the centrists, independents and above all, conservatives – folks who are not exactly supportive of Communism. Regardless, by omitting these comments in his column today, and following the lead of the NYT’s Robin Wright, CNN, the Washington Post and Time, Rich misrepresents Stack’s actual views as expressed by Stack in order to utilize the tragedy of Stack’s horrific suicide attack to push Carville’s political messaging. Such conduct by Rich and Wright, pushing a smear campaign against the tea party movement with very questionable facts in support, as sanctioned by the NYT editorial page, represents the worst of the establishment media.
Finally, Rich gets in a shot at Sarah Palin by concluding that her association with the tea party movement is “enough to make you wonder who is palling around with terrorists now.” Here Rich is referencing Sarah Palin’s campaign 2008 comment that Obama is “palling around with terrorists” based on Obama’s relationship with Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dorn. Ayers and Dorn admitted engaging in terrorist acts in the 1960’s and 1970’s, while there are no tea party terrorists, despite what the NYT and James Carville would have you believe. The smear of Palin as palling around with terrorists because of her speech at the tea party convention is truly over the top, and should have never made it past the NYT’s editors. Here’s Rich’s conclusion in full:
In his Times article on the Tea Party right, Barstow profiled Pam Stout, a once apolitical Idaho retiree who cast her lot with a Tea Party group allied with Beck’s 9/12 Project, the Birch Society and the Oath Keepers, a rising militia group of veterans and former law enforcement officers who champion disregarding laws they oppose. She frets that “another civil war” may be in the offing. “I don’t see us being the ones to start it,” she told Barstow, “but I would give up my life for my country.”
Whether consciously or coincidentally, Stout was echoing Palin’s memorable final declaration during her appearance at the National Tea Party Convention earlier this month: “I will live, I will die for the people of America, whatever I can do to help.” It’s enough to make you wonder who is palling around with terrorists now.
It appears from Pelosi’s “astroturf” smear today, and the two NYT editorial pieces that explicitly label tea party members as terrorists, the Carville demonization strategy is in full gear, using the tragedy of Stack’s horrific suicide attack as the “evidence” to back the terrorist smear. Considering the recent even-handed reporting by other mainstream media sources about the tea party, it will be interesting to see if the “tea partiers are terrorists” smear gains life beyond the pages of the NYT editorial page and left wing new media sites.
UPDATE: Welcome to the readers of theAtlantic.com who came over from the “Defining the Tea Party” post, thanks for the link John Hudson. Please take a look around, leave a comment or two and let’s have a debate. Thanks.