Tea Partiers Say Obama’s Too Mean

Demonstrators with the Tea Party protest the Internal Revenue Service targeting of the Tea Party and similar groups during a rally called 'Audit the IRS' outside the Capitol, June 19, 2013.
National Journal
Billy House
Oct. 9, 2013, 5:41 p.m.

When tea-party Re­pub­lic­ans ar­rived in Con­gress in 2011, many were en­er­gized and ready to shake up Wash­ing­ton — whatever the cost. But now, some are claim­ing that it is Pres­id­ent Obama who is play­ing too rough.

Amid the gov­ern­ment shut­down and debt-ceil­ing stan­doff — which has raised rhet­or­ic sharply — they say the pres­id­ent has de­mon­ized what they con­sider healthy polit­ic­al op­pos­i­tion.

“The dif­fer­ence is, I don’t think his pre­de­cessors have ant­ag­on­ized the oth­er side,” says Rep. Aus­tin Scott, R-Ga., who was pres­id­ent of the tea-party-packed House Re­pub­lic­an fresh­man class last ses­sion.

“Bill Clin­ton did not in­ten­tion­ally ant­ag­on­ize Re­pub­lic­ans,” Scott said. “And I think that most of those [earli­er] pres­id­ents would have wel­comed the op­por­tun­ity to ne­go­ti­ate. And if they’re right on their points, then cer­tainly they’d want to ne­go­ti­ate.”

Sim­il­ar sen­ti­ment was echoed by sev­er­al of Scott’s fel­low tea parti­ers Wed­nes­day.

“I was tea party be­fore there was a tea party,” said Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ar­iz., who has served in Con­gress since 2003. Obama, he said, “has tried to make some malevol­ent ghost, or evil spir­it, out of the tea party.”

Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., a mem­ber of the tea-party caucus who fam­ously yelled “You lie!” to Obama dur­ing a speech be­fore a joint ses­sion of Con­gress, was among those who agreed Wed­nes­day with Scott’s view that the pres­id­ent has been too ant­ag­on­ist­ic.

“Wheth­er it’s per­son­al or not, it’s not good for the coun­try,” said Wilson, who apo­lo­gized after his out­burst on the House floor, made when Obama said the health care re­form law would not cov­er un­doc­u­mented im­mig­rants.

The com­ments came a day after Obama’s news con­fer­ence, in which the pres­id­ent did use some rhet­or­ic that House con­ser­vat­ives found dif­fi­cult to swal­low, liken­ing them to ex­tor­tion­ists. “I’m not go­ing to [ne­go­ti­ate] un­til the more ex­treme parts of the Re­pub­lic­an Party stop for­cing John Boehner to is­sue threats about our eco­nomy,” Obama said, re­fer­ring to the Re­pub­lic­an House speak­er. “We can’t make ex­tor­tion routine as part of our demo­cracy.”

Of course, Con­gress in gen­er­al is not a gentle place. Tea-party Re­pub­lic­ans have taken plenty of at­tacks from the le­gis­lat­ive branch as well. Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi has called the House tea-party wing “le­gis­lat­ive ar­son­ists” for their de­mands. Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id has called them “an­arch­ists.”

While some might see irony in a group of firebrand re­formers com­plain­ing that Obama has not been a peace­maker, Scott, who re­mains a tea-party fa­vor­ite, said he does not dis­pute that all pres­id­ents have a right to stand up for what they be­lieve. Yet he also says there’s a sense among his col­leagues that Obama just doesn’t like them.

“It’s ob­vi­ous any time he goes on TV,” Scott said. “I mean, words he uses to de­scribe Con­gress, the tone of his voice, what he says, how he says it.”

“The role of the pres­id­ent is to be the peace­maker. And just by defin­i­tion, an ant­ag­on­ist is not a peace­maker. Really, all of our roles should be to be the peace­maker. It doesn’t mean you can’t stand up for what you be­lieve in. But he has been any­thing but that,” Scott said.

Has the rhet­or­ic got­ten too per­son­al?

“It’s not so much per­son­al with many of us,” Scott said.

“I mean, even when we were fresh­men, the only mem­ber of that ad­min­is­tra­tion that ac­tu­ally met with the fresh­man class was [former Treas­ury Sec­ret­ary Timothy] Geithner,” he ad­ded. “Oth­er than that, the ad­min­is­tra­tion just said, “˜They’re anti-Obama, they’re tea-party con­trolled.’ There was no ef­fort, and has been no ef­fort, by that ad­min­is­tra­tion to es­tab­lish any re­la­tion­ships with any­body over here.”

What We're Following See More »
“CLINTON MUST BECOME THE NEXT PRESIDENT”
Bernie Sanders Seeks to Unite the Party
7 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Instead of his usual stump speech, Bernie Sanders tonight threw his support behind Hillary Clinton, providing a clear contrast between Clinton and GOP nominee Donald Trump on the many issues he used to discuss in his campaign stump speeches. Sanders spoke glowingly about the presumptive Democratic nominee, lauding her work as first lady and as a strong advocate for women and the poor. “We need leadership in this country which will improve the lives of working families, the children, the elderly, the sick and the poor,” he said. “Hillary Clinton will make a great president, and I am proud to stand with her tonight."

“MUST NEVER BE PRESIDENT”
Elizabeth Warren Goes After Donald Trump
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS

In a stark contrast from Michelle Obama's uplifting speech, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke about the rigged system plaguing Americans before launching into a full-throated rebuke of GOP nominee Donald Trump. Trump is "a man who has never sacrificed anything for anyone," she claimed, before saying he "must never be president of the United States." She called him divisive and selfish, and said the American people won't accept his "hate-filled America." In addition to Trump, Warren went after the Republican Party as a whole. "To Republicans in Congress who said no, this November the American people are coming for you," she said.

FLOTUS OFFERS STRONG ENDORSEMENT OF CLINTON
Michelle Obama: “I Trust” Hillary Clinton
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"In this election, and every election, it's about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives," Michelle Obama said. "There is only one person who I trust with that responsibility … and that is our friend Hillary Clinton." In a personal and emotional speech, Michelle Obama spoke about the effect that angry oppositional rhetoric had on her children and how she chose to raise them. "When they go low, we go high," Obama said she told her children about dealing with bullies. Obama stayed mostly positive, but still offered a firm rebuke of Donald Trump, despite never once uttering his name. "The issues a president faces cannot be boiled down to 140 characters," she said.

SANDERS BACKER CONFRONTS STUBBORN SANDERS SUPPORTERS
Sarah Silverman to Bernie or Bust: “You’re Being Ridiculous”
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Many Bernie Sanders delegates have spent much of the first day of the Democratic National Convention resisting unity, booing at mentions of Hillary Clinton and often chanting "Bernie! Bernie!" Well, one of the most outspoken Bernie Sanders supporters just told them to take a seat. "To the Bernie-or-bust people: You're being ridiculous," said comedian Sarah Silverman in a brief appearance at the Convention, minutes after saying that she would proudly support Hillary Clinton for president.

‘INEXCUSABLE REMARKS’
DNC Formally Apologizes to Bernie Sanders
13 hours ago
THE LATEST

The Democratic National Committee issued a formal apology to Bernie Sanders today, after leaked emails showed staffers trying to sabotage his presidential bid. "On behalf of everyone at the DNC, we want to offer a deep and sincere apology to Senator Sanders, his supporters, and the entire Democratic Party for the inexcusable remarks made over email," DNC officials said in the statement. "These comments do not reflect the values of the DNC or our steadfast commitment to neutrality during the nominating process. The DNC does not—and will not—tolerate disrespectful language exhibited toward our candidates."

Source:
×