Joe Klein is taking a road trip. Getting out of his usual digs in tony Pelham, New York, downtown Manhattan and the media establishment, and finally the Beltway, has been good for him. Time gave him the assignment to depart from his usual type articles to drive through America, meet and talk with regular folk, and see what is on their minds.
This week, Klein found himself in Texarkana, Arkansas—a small town in which the Texas-Arkansas border runs through the middle of the small area—giving it two of everything; two city halls, two mayors, two police and fire departments. (You may not have heard of it before, unless in the ’60s folk boom era, you sang the song “Cotton Fields,” whose verse begins “Just a mile from Terxarkana….)
Anyway, what Klein finds is what concerns most people he met are not the contested social issues like abortion, evolution or immigration. Instead, he writes, the talk was “all about too much government: too much governing regulation, too many people dependent on government.” One of the mayors complains to Klein about Social Security disability payment, which he says is giving drug addicts and drunks “three times the amount my father-in-law does on Social Security retirement.” And another person tells him that children with ADD can get Social Security disability payments also. Says the woman: “I don’t believe we have any legal or moral obligation to pay any money to people too drunk to work or lazy to work.”
Another gripe was the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, which one builder explained prevented him from receiving bank loans he always used to be able to get, known as “character loans,” since he had a good repayment record. Now, a deal fell through because he needed a quick loan, and Dodd-Frank prohibited him from moving on the process for a six week period. By then it was too late. Similarly, another businessman told Klein how for similar reasons, he could not expand his nursing home business. He even heard the same complaint from a banker who is the mayor of Hope, Bill Clinton’s home town. Not a Tea Party supporter like the people in Texarkana, this banker explained how impossible it was to give anyone home loans anymore.
Surprisingly, Klein writes- and one must say you do not expect to find this from Klein:
It seemed to me that the closer the Tea Party folks got to home, the more legitimate their beefs were. On the most basic, local level, their concern about waste and corruption seemed a good thing, a valuable revival of citizen concern after a long period of apathy. And the federal government does tend to impose layer upon layer of new regulations without keeping track of how they’re working.
Anything President Obama has done to address these problems, Klein adds, “hasn’t reached Texarkana. I found myself in sympathy with much that the Miller County Patriots were saying,” referring to the name of the local Tea Party group. Until, that is, “one man called the President a socialist who wanted government to run everything,” and that since he went around the world apologizing for the United States, he didn’t think Obama was a patriot.
So Klein concludes: “When they’re talking about character loans, I’m all ears. Whey they’re fantasizing about socialism, I’m not.”
So, here, I highly recommend that Joe Klein take a look at Charles Krauthammer’s latest column. Klein has taken half a leap; unusual for a MSM liberal, he has listened to regular Tea Party folks, and has not condemned them as racist, fascist and as a bunch of extremist nuts. But he stops short at taking their view of Obama as anything but crazed.