Roger L. Simon

The Great Tea Party Express/CNN Alliance: Who's Sorry Now?

They say that opposites attract — but this opposite?

Call it a tempest in a teapot or call it a gathering storm (you decide the cliche) but the planned Cable News Network presidential debates with Tea Party Express are already raising more eyebrows than Jack Nicholson as The Joker.

Yes, the network and the supposedly grass roots organization are teaming up to stage 2012 presidential debates and the chattering classes are working over time. Most guffaw-inducing comment so far: A Salon blogger criticizes the mating for a lack of “basic standards of journalistic ethics.”

Evelyn Waugh, where are you when we need you?

But never mind. CNN is obviously a network in extremis, looking to find its way in the post-Larry King universe. But the Tea Party Express? What do they have to gain from all this, going mainstream when they have barely pulled their boots on? And going mainstream with whom?

Are the leaders of Tea Party Express aware that it was CNN that deliberately did not report Saddam’s rape rooms and defenestrations at the height of his dictatorship, so that the network could maintain access? Is this the kind of partner the tea party people should be seeking? If they are not aware — which I hope they aren’t — the Express leadership can educate themselves reading (among other things) News We Kept To Ourselves, an op-ed by CNN’s own Eason Jordan in the New York Times.

Obviously there has been a lot more written on this subject of which the Tea Party Express leaders should make themselves cognizant. It is one thing to support a couple of candidates who were perhaps not ready for prime time (Angle, O’Donnell). Anyone can do that and it’s a predictable mistake, easily forgiven. But playing footsie with a network that aided and abetted a homicidal dictator is another matter.

One of the hallmarks of the Tea Party movement was supposed to have been transparency (real transparency, not Obama transparency). How does the well-funded Tea Party Express achieve that now? And how do they justify an alliance with a network that ten minutes ago was making a mockery of the tea party. Wolf Blitzer, Candy Crowley, the whole CNN line up was dismissive of the tea party movement and everything it stood for, treating them like fringe loonies until the last possible moment.

Other tea party groups have not followed suit to this point, but we should all take note. Ideological purity isn’t an end in itself — but it’s a good place to start.