Thu, 26 Feb 2009 21:27:55 +0000 – By Dan GainorVice PresidentBusiness and Media Institute
Only in America does the term "tea party" sound ominous. In much of the world, it's a high-falootin', civilized gathering. In the U.S., it has meant tax rebellion ever since a few Boston patriots decided they liked their tea mixed with salt water instead of sugar.
Last week CNBC's Rick Santelli made national news when he called for a "Chicago tea party" in a populist rant so powerful that the White House had to scramble to respond. With more than 2 million views, his anger and frustration have poured across the Internet. On Friday, February 27, at least 15 "tea party" protests are planned from Atlanta to San Diego.
You might say Obama's media fans were "tea-ed off," and they weren't alone.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs wasn't genteel in response. "Mr. Santelli has argued, I think quite wrongly, that this plan won't help everyone," Gibbs said. So now the Obama plan won't just "drive down mortgage rates for millions of Americans," as Gibbs told the press. It's so perfect that it will help everyone. That's exactly what Gibbs was saying.
Of course, he's wrong. It won't help you if you have to pay for it. And according to some in the press corps, Obama is already picking out politically correct targets for hefty tax hikes to pay for the multi-trillion-dollar welfare state he is building. On February 22, The Washington Post declared Obama's budget will be funded "primarily by raising taxes on businesses and the wealthy."
Raising taxes in the middle of a tough recession? No wonder many are clamoring for a spot of tea while the Obama folks are in a spot of trouble.
But the bobbing and weaving White House press secretary still maintains that everyone will benefit from the plan. Perhaps Gibbs tied one of those signature pinks ties too tight around his neck that day. The blood certainly seemed to rush to his head in his micro-rant against Santelli as he offered to buy the CNBC reporter a cup of coffee -- "decaf" -- and take one last smack at his opponent.
Maybe Gibbs himself needs to try drinking the decaf instead of the Kool-Aid. Then he wouldn't get so angry at a bit of well-deserved criticism. Unlike Gibbs, Santelli works with the traders and hears their complaints every day. If he's angry, it's because they're angry.
It's also because millions of us are angry. That anger is more than the Obama camp is ready for. Anger at Wall Street fits their agenda. Anger over the president's plan earns a hasty rebuke from Gibbs or Obama.
And of course the media is distressed at Obama getting an early tea time.
Matthews' partner-in-slime Keith Olbermann rated Santelli, who works for the same parent company, as one of his "worst people."Albert R. Hunt, Bloomberg's executive editor for Washington called Santelli's comments "so sophomoric," while The Baltimore Sun's David Zurawik complained about on-air correspondents who "behave like clowns and would-be demagogues."
Where were these paragons of journalistic virtue when the bulk of the news media showered Obama with love during the campaign? I guess it's OK to gush over The One, just don't question Him.
It was a predictable script and Gibbs seemed warmed by the support. So, for the second time in a month, the prickly White House lashed out at its opponents. Last time it was talk radio star Rush Limbaugh. This time, a lowly CNBC financial reporter. Gibbs was so annoyed with Santelli that he referenced him six separate times by name during the press conference.
This is the M.O. for the Obama team when backed into a corner ever so slightly. They kicked reporters off the plane during the campaign after some media outlets editorial board had the temerity to back John McCain instead of their guy.
Instead of a swift kick, Gibbs did it this way -- he warned that it was up to "people who rant on cable television to be responsible and understand what it is they're talking about."
It's apparently not "responsible" to challenge the president, but OK when Obama talks down the economy by calling this the "most profound economic emergency since the Great Depression." What the White House and the mainstream media really mean is they want opponents to shut up because they fear an angry America will blame Obama for his obvious failures handling the economy.
When all is said and done, maybe the Obama administration will discover populism isn't its cup of tea after all.
Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Fellow and Vice President of the Media Research Center'sBusiness Media Institute. His column appears each week on The Fox Forum and he can be seen each Thursday from 3:00-4:00 on Foxnews.com's "Strategy Room."