Belmont Club


The Atlantic Wire reports that Bill Clinton has identified the cause of the national malaise. “The main raison d’être behind Clinton’s latest book, which will be released Tuesday, seems to be diagnose and treat the country’s current economic woes. … his choice words for Obama are what’s going to get everybody’s attention. … But really what’s more interesting is who Clinton takes potshots against.” According to the Associated Press’s Beth Fouhy Clinton “largely blames …


the anti-government sentiment embodied in the tea party movement” for the current “mess the country’s in and generally “praises Obama for taking steps to mitigate the financial crisis and deep recession. … Clinton wishes that the Democratic leadership crafted a national message to counter Tea Partiers’ anti-government rhetoric.

Well thank heavens that mystery has been cleared up. But a deeper one remains. How did the Tea Party, which Sean Penn describes as a racist, bigoted ‘Get the N-word out of the White House’ movement so effectively sabotage the President’s recovery program?  How did the “Right Wing” group of uneducated losers accede to influence so soon after Obama’s historic election in 2008?

Chris Matthews ascribed the Tea Party influence to their willingness to intimidate their opponents. Calling it the “new right”, Matthews wonders whether it is not now amassing weapons under the color of the Second Amendment to drive the legitimately elected Federal Government from power.

Nor did it spring up suddenly.

Despite the hope engendered by the election of Barack Obama, it appears the wave of hate had been a long time coming. Kathleen Parker at the Washington Post references a Southern Poverty Law Center report which says that “hate and vigilante groups, now numbering about 1,000, increased by 54 percent between 2000 and 2008” and anti-immigrant groups increased by almost 80% in 2009.

Parker wrote that “these are especially sensitive times, given our first African American president and unavoidable fears about the worst-case scenario. If Jodie Foster could bestir the imagination of Hinckley, a Sarah Palin in the Internet age could move regiments.”  No the Tea Party did not arise spontaneously. Under the placid facade of the Bush administration, a vast army of mindless bigots had long been prepared in the nurseries of hatred all over America ready to be unleashed on mainstream America should it succumb to race-treason.


Yet paradoxically, when asked about the Occupy Wall Street protesters, President Obama defended their legitimacy on the grounds that they were as legitimate as the Tea Party. He told ABC News that there was no need to fear the OWS. They had just as much a right to be there as the other guys.

President Obama, who has become a target of the Occupy Wall Street protests sweeping the country, today embraced the economic frustration voiced on the streets and said in an exclusive interview with ABC News that his vision for the U.S. economic system is best suited to resolve protesters’ concerns.

“I understand the frustrations being expressed in those protests,” Obama told ABC News senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper in the interview to air this evening on ABC News “Nightline” from Jamestown, N.C.

“In some ways, they’re not that different from some of the protests that we saw coming from the Tea Party. Both on the left and the right, I think people feel separated from their government. They feel that their institutions aren’t looking out for them,” he said.

Even Bill Clinton had some sympathy for the deluded adherents of this misguided right wing army. He argued that the Tea Partiers consisted simply of people who had a misdirected anger; and had they their wits about them they would really be Democrats.

“I think that, first of all, the tea party insurrection … that you see in these Republican primaries, reflects the feeling of a lot of Americans that they’re getting the shaft. That the people who caused these problems …the banks that were responsible for the financial meltdown, they’ve gotten well again. And everybody has got money again who is in that business, but ordinary people don’t.

“So there is a general revolt against bigness Which in the case of the Republicans is always directed more against the government than the private sector,” Clinton said. “It’s totally understandable [but they are] being bankrolled by people who want to weaken the government so that there will be even more unaccounted for private concentration of power. And that’s what got it us in the mess we’re in the first place.”


That is the prism through which the progressive movement sees the Tea Party. But is it the correct prism?

A right-wing cynic might be tempted to think that left has fallen prey to the trap of mirror-imaging. They see the Tea Party in exactly as they would have created it, had they been on the other side.  Just as the left has foundries of activism, so must the conservatives have these;  just as they would bankroll people to weaken their opponents, so too must the Tea Party be bankrolled.  They would simply regard the Tea Party as the contact print equivalent of the Occupy Movement negative; with the same essential features and purpose directed the other way.

But that’s not always true. The New York Times examined the dangers of mirror-imaging in a 1998 article.  “It is considered one of the most basic mistakes in the spy manual.”

“Mirror-imaging — projecting your thought process or value system onto someone else — is one of the greatest threats to objective intelligence analysis,” a senior CIA officer, Frank Watanabe, wrote last year in Studies in Intelligence, the agency’s in-house journal. “Avoid mirror-imaging at all costs,” he advised.

Failing to follow such counsel led the United States to believe that Japan would never attack Pearl Harbor and that Saddam Hussein would never invade Kuwait.

But no analyst in the government imagined India testing a nuclear bomb. “The amazing thing was the unanimity,” a senior State Department official said ruefully. “There was nobody anywhere — no voices — saying ‘Watch out!”‘

As Watanabe notes, “When everyone agrees on an issue, something is probably wrong.”


It would be a great strategic surprise to the left if the Tea Party actually turned out to be different from what they thought it was. They could never conceive of it, except in their own terms. JRR Tolkien made reference to this particular king of blindness in his book, The Lord of the Rings. Explaining why the path to Mount Doom might be unguarded, Gandalf explains that Sauron would never dream of anyone trying to get into Mordor to destroy the Ring of Power.

For he is very wise, and weighs all things to a nicety in the scales of this malice. But the only measure that he knows is desire, desire for power; and so he judges all hearts. Into his heart the thought will not enter that any will refuse it.

But then of course we know that in real life, Bill Clinton, Kathleen Parker and Chris Matthews are rarely wrong. The Tea Party is just waiting to seize power in Washington for exactly the same purposes  those worthies themselves secretly desire. That is how the world is, and in the world of Hope and Change, how it will always be.

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