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'Tea party' influence: Good, bad or overblown? [The conversation]

August 9, 2011 |  8:55 am

Michele Bachmann

Did the "tea party" Republicans act in the best interest of the U.S. by using the debt ceiling as a negotiating tool? Was it fair for them to agree only to raising the debt ceiling in exchange for spending cuts? Here’s what opinionators and a few politicians are saying.

The "tea party" acted in the best interest of Americans

They are like the sober people at a party, writes Los Angeles Times columnist Jonah Goldberg:

If you've ever known anyone with a serious addiction, you know the easiest thing for friends and family to do is pretend it's not a big deal. Who wants to have a confrontation? Far easier to let things slide and have a good time.

The tea party is like the cousin who's been through AA and refuses to pretend anymore. As a result he spoils everyone's good time. For the enablers, and others in denial, he's the guy ruining everything, not the drunk. [...]

And the tea party is sounding the wake-up call. If America didn't have a problem, then there really would be good cause to be furious with the forces of sobriety.

Obama should take them seriously, Liz Peek writes for Fox:

One thing is clear: the Tea Party won the debt ceiling skirmish and changed the nation’s discourse. The movement shifted the country’s focus to cutting spending and restoring our country’s fiscal health –- a stunning volte face for our indulgent body politic. You have to wonder, when will Mr. Obama take the Tea Party seriously?

Commentary’s Abe Greenwald says they gave the country a fighting chance:

Let’s acknowledge that the Tea Party played Russian roulette with America’s future. Which means it took five bullets out of the loaded revolver the U.S. had to its head and gave the country a fighting chance.

They are a force to be reckoned with, write the Daily Beast’s Daniel Stone and Eleanor Clift:

This ragtag band of proud obstructionists is already looking down the calendar to its next targets: blocking President Obama’s judicial and federal-agency nominations, radically restructuring Medicare and other entitlement programs, and maybe even killing the gasoline tax. [...]


That just-don’t-give-a-damn attitude makes this group a force to be reckoned with in Congress, even if they are left with few friends in Washington besides each other or are driven from office in just one or two terms. They plan to just go out and get more folks like them to run for Congress.

We’re not terrorists, said John McCain on “Meet the Press” [via NewsBusters]:

And by the way, talking about hostages, of lately the Democrats have been calling us terrorists. So we need to lower that level of rhetoric, obviously.

The "tea party" is a threat to the fabric of the United States

They’re nuts and should go home, Alan Simpson, co-chair of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, told ... wait for it … Fox Business [via Mediaite]:

[Obama] is smarter than rigid people who don’t compromise on anything. If you came to Congress not to compromise you’re totally ineffective, you ought to go home. You can compromise an issue without compromising yourself. These guys think the word compromise is a silly word. They’re nuts!

Extremism threatens America, writes the New York Times’ Paul Krugman:

The real question facing America, even in purely fiscal terms, isn’t whether we’ll trim a trillion here or a trillion there from deficits. It is whether the extremists now blocking any kind of responsible policy can be defeated and marginalized.

The "tea party's" tactics were most un-American, says GPS’ Fareed Zakaria:

People have to cooperate for anything to get done. That is why the Tea Party's insistence on holding the debt ceiling hostage in order to force its policies on the country -- the first time the debt ceiling has been used this way -- was so deeply un-American.

Where is our nation’s soul, asks On Faith’s Jennifer Butler:

The Tea Party’s uncompromising demands distorted the debate, and we’re now left with legislation that asks nothing from millionaires and billionaires even as it makes life tougher for the working poor and struggling families. This is not shared sacrifice.

The "tea party" isn’t as powerful as we give it credit for

“Tea party” members make up only a small part of Congress, the New York Times editorial board points out:

It is far too simplistic to blame the loose coalition of Republicans known as the Tea Party for the debt-limit debacle. It was not the Tea Party fringe of the Republican Party that dragged the economy to the brink — it was its center. The party has moved so far to the right that there is little difference between fringe and mainstream.

They are a flash-in-the-pan phenomenon, says Jonathan Bernstein for the Washington Post’s Plum Line:

The anonymous blogger at “Economics of Contempt” is quite right: Tea Party conservatives are likely at the height of their influence in Congress, and the odds are good that by 2013 (the next time the debt limit needs to be raised) they will either be diminished through electoral losses or more conciliatory.


A lot at stake for small-town America

Deficit reduction: Who matters now in Washington?

Newton: Today's politicians could learn from Eisenhower

-- Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), a "tea party" adherent, addresses conservative activists rallying on Capitol Hill in support of deep cuts to the federal budget. Credit: Olivier Douliery / McClatchy-Tribune

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