Tax Day Tea Parties: The Start of a Movement?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," April 15, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight: Look behind me. You know what that is. It's the White House. We are live in Washington, D.C., where hours ago, tea party protesters gathered in front of the White House, fighting for lower taxes and smaller government, most of them furious at the policies of Congress and of the man who lives and works in that house, President Obama. We have complete coverage tonight.

Plus, there is breaking news tonight. Right now, you are looking at live pictures of Andrews Air Force Base, and within a short time, the crew of the Maersk Alabama is expected to land at this air base. This will be the first time the crew will step on American soil since being attacked by pirates and rescued by our Navy SEALs. We're going to be going live there in moments.

But first: The protesters in Washington were not alone. Today, tea parties erupted from coast to coast, in Boston, Massachusetts, in Sacramento, California, in Louisville, Kentucky, in Tampa, Florida, Austin, Texas. Yes, there are more than 600 tea parties expected across the nation, and we took "On the Record" cameras to the tea party right here in front of the White House.


VAN SUSTEREN: What's the protest about?

REBECCA WALES, TEA PARTY ORGANIZER: The protest is about the pork in the stimulus bill. That's what initially started it. But as you talk to people here, it becomes very personal. People have told me stories about how they've lost their jobs, have small businesses have closed. They've told me how their sons or daughters are in the military and how they fear because the military's not becoming fully funded, that they fear for their sons' and daughters' lives. It's very, very personal. So why people hare ere? You have to ask them.

ALYSSA CORDOVA, COLLEGE STUDENT: I'm out here because, as a conservative, I don't really get to see a lot gatherings and people showing big support for my ideas, especially on a college campus. So I just find this truly inspirational that people are just finally so fed up with the expansion of government that they're willing to come out here in this horrible weather -- it's so cold and rainy -- and just really show their support for, you know, shrinking the government and putting an end to, you know, these ridiculous policies that are trying to take away all of our freedoms.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do they want from our government?

WALES: Somebody asked me that if President Obama walked across the street today and said, Rebecca, let's talk, what would I -- what would say? I would say repeal the stimulus bill, let the lawmakers actually read a new bill instead of passing it without having the chance to read, and then move forward from there. There's a lot that needs to happen (INAUDIBLE)

PHIL KERPEN, TEA PARTY CO-SPONSOR: I'll tell you, the story that you hear that somehow this was astroturfed or faked or put together by organizations like ours, it's absolutely crazy. I'll tell you, you know, we could have had millions and millions of dollars and all the time in the world and never could have put on anything like this. This is the kind of huge, large-scale event that only can come together when you have thousands of volunteers and you have thousands of activists and you have thousands of ordinary folks who are willing to step up and put it together. And right here in Washington, we have a great example of that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is it all conservatives, all Republicans?

WALES: No, no, no. This is about being Republican, Democrat, independent, Libertarian, conservative, anybody, anybody who's upset with the stimulus package.


VAN SUSTEREN: South Carolina governor Mark Sanford was at two tea parties earlier today. He joins us live. Good evening, Governor. And where were the two parties you went to, sir?

GOV. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I went to one in Columbia, south Carolina, and another one this evening in Charleston, South Carolina. And your coverage was very much on point, in that is just absolutely amazing to watch unfold, in that there is a genuine frustration, a genuine concern, a genuine angst that seems to be erupting across this country.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, how do we know this is not just sort of the enthusiasm of a one-time deal? Like, this is tax day, April 15. People get all -- you know -- you know, people can get excited about a particular day. I mean, how -- how -- is this going to carry on beyond today, do you think?

SANFORD: Well, time will tell, but what I saw was a level of energy that I've not seen at any point over the last 15 years that I have been involved in politics on the anti-spending side and on the anti-big-growth- of-government side. So you know, it's really in the hands of these different volunteers and these different, you know, spontaneous combustions that we've seen erupt across this country as to whether or not they'll continue to stay engaged. But if they do, there are going to be some changes coming our way because that kind of people pressure over time, over sustained time, can make a real difference in the world of politics.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, Governor Perry's been "On the Record," and he said that he felt that the federal government was oppressive towards his state, the state of Texas. Is that how you would describe the federal government vis-a-vis your state, or not?

SANFORD: Well, we've had quite a fight in South Carolina on the stimulus, take it all versus not. And the Democratic National Committee has run ads against me. There have been a number of different things trying to get us to take it in its entirety, and we at this point have said no.

But what I would say as to Rick Perry's point is that there's something wrong when federal government says, This is the way you've got to do it. Federalism is based on the idea of there being 50 different states out there, each one having a little bit different opinion and a little bit different need as to the way that things ought to be done. And so the idea that the federal government is totally prescriptive in saying, You got to spend every dime of the stimulus money, and you got to spend it this way, is at odds with what has made this country great over time, which is different states trying different programs and coming up with a way that works best in your neck of the woods.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you think is a realistic effect of these tea parties? I mean, if you go back in time to, like, the war protests of the late '60s, early '70s, it had an impact on at least, you know, changing public opinion and pushing us perhaps out of Vietnam earlier. Is that -- is that a possibility, that the tea parties today could evolve in a much more forceful movement than simply a one-day protest?

SANFORD: I think so because, again, I myself was genuinely surprised at the number of people. When I stepped out onto the state capitol steps in Columbia, when I stepped out onto the customs building in Charleston, which is a historical building, and looked at the street completely covered with folks, in both instances, I was completely surprised at the number of people out there.

And so, yes, I think that if people stay at this, they're tapping into something that is real. And it's, again, up to them as to whether or not they stay engaged. But if they do, I think in the same way that you saw those war protests make a difference with regard to what happened in Vietnam, you're going to see this thing take hold as a genuine backlash to the amount of spending and the amount of stimulus that seems to be coming out of Washington, D.C., all predicated on issuing more debt to solve a problem that was created by too much debt.

VAN SUSTEREN: Isn't much as dependent, though, sir, on whether or not President Obama's packages, the stimulus packages, actually work? Like, if the economy gets going, if it gets traction, if he's on the right path, then does that sort of undermine the whole idea of fighting the stimulus bill and fighting sort of the, you know, Federal government, get off our back, that the state is saying?

SANFORD: It would. But again, I think that if economic history is any guide, that will unfortunately not prove to be the case. Everybody wants a better and stronger economy, but the idea of printing a bunch of money that you don't have as a way of, quote, "stimulating the economy" is at odds with economic reality and it's at odds with economic history. A place like Argentina tried this in the 1920s. It was disastrous for the currency. In the Weimar Republic between World War I and World War II in Germany, disastrous for the currency. If you look at Zimbabwe right now, it's printing money that you don't have has been disastrous for their economy. So economic history would suggest that this probably won't work out so well.

VAN SUSTEREN: Any idea how many people were at the two tea parties you attended? I mean, we tried to do some crowd guessing, but we were painfully unable to do it here. How about in South Carolina? Can you estimate your numbers there?

SANFORD: I'm bad at guessing numbers, so I'll say look it up in the, you know, state (ph) paper Web site or The Charleston Post and Courier Web site and they'll have some number. But certainly, over a thousand folks in each place, and for South Carolina, those are very good-sized crowds.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's the reception that you had personally? Because you're rejecting the money to your state, and while that might be very helpful to your state in the short run, at least as I understand it, you think it's a bad idea for the long run because it puts your state and other financial issues down the road. But what's the reaction you got, sir?

SANFORD: It was very encouraging. Not to say that we were vindicated by any stretch of the imagination on the stand that my administration has taken and, you know, weathered to some degree over the last couple weeks, but there were a lot of people very, very warm to the position that we've staked out.

And what it told me -- and this is very encouraging -- is that I'm not alone in the stand that I've taken, that there are a lot of people -- there is that silent majority of folks that are busy getting themselves to and from work and the kids to and from soccer practice that are genuinely concerned about ramifications in terms of the value of our currency, in terms of future inflation, and in terms of the growth and scale of our government, both at federal, state and local level, that are really beginning to make their voice heard.

And so I got a very warm reception, and for that I was most appreciative of the encouragement that it offered both to me and the administration -- that is, the one here in South Carolina.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it'll be interesting tomorrow to sort of assess, to look back today to see, when we get all the numbers in from across the country from all the local news organizations, to see, you know, what impact, if any, or what the numbers are of people who turned out. Governor, thank you, sir.

SANFORD: My pleasure. Thanks for letting me join you.

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