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 »
SHARES THEIR LOVE STORY
Bill Clinton Gets Personal in Convention Speech
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

“In the spring of 1971, I met a girl,” started Bill Clinton. In his speech Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention, Clinton brought a personal touch, telling parallel stories of his relationship with Hillary Clinton and the work she has done throughout her career. He lauded the Democratic nominee for her career of work, touching on her earliest days of advocacy for children and those with disabilities while in law school, her role as Secretary of State, and her work in raising their daughter, Chelsea. Providing a number of anecdotes throughout the speech, Clinton built to a crescendo, imploring the audience to support his wife for president. "You should elect her, she'll never quit when the going gets tough," he said. "Your children and grandchildren will be grateful."

LOUD “BLACK LIVES MATTER” CHANTS RING OUT
Mothers Of The Movement Endorse Hillary Clinton
7 hours ago
THE DETAILS

A coalition of mothers whose children lost their lives in high profile cases across the country, known as the Mothers Of The Movement, were greeted with deafening chants of "Black Lives Matter" before telling their stories. The mothers of Sandra Bland, Jordan Davis, and Trayvon Martin spoke for the group, soliciting both tears and applause from the crowd. "Hillary Clinton has the compassion and understanding to comfort a grieving mother," said Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin. "And that's why, in the memory of our children, we are imploring you — all of you — to vote this election day."

SOUTH DAKOTA GIVES HER CLINCHING DELEGATES
Clinton Officially Democratic Nominee for President
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS

With the South Dakota delegation announcing its delegate count, Hillary Rodham Clinton is officially the Democratic nominee for president, surpassing the 2383 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. Clinton is expected to speak at the convention on Thursday night and officially accept the nomination.

THE QUESTION
How Many People Protested in Philly Yesterday?
13 hours ago
THE ANSWER

About 5,500, according to official estimates. "The Monday figures marked a large increase from the protests at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where even the largest protests only drew a couple of hundred demonstrators. But it’s a far cry from the 35,000 to 50,000 that Philadelphia city officials initially expected."

Source:
NO BATTLEGROUND STATES LEAN TRUMP
NY Times’ Upshot Gives Clinton 68% Chance to Win
13 hours ago
THE LATEST

Only a day after FiveThirtyEight's Now Cast gave Donald Trump a 57% chance of winning, the New York Times' Upshot fires back with its own analysis that shows Hillary Clinton with a 68% chance to be the next president. Its model "calculates win probabilities for each state," which incorporate recent polls plus "a state's past election results and national polling." Notably, all of the battleground states that "vote like the country as a whole" either lean toward Clinton or are toss-ups. None lean toward Trump.

Source:
×