Tea Party: Pro-Torture, Pro-War, Pro-Freedom?

from today’s Christian Science Monitor

‘Tea party’ activists: Do they hate liberals more than they love liberty?
A recent ‘tea party’ rally showed lots of anger toward President Obama, but little consistent support for liberty in America.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR——————————————————————————–

By James Bovard
posted April 23, 2010 at 10:05 am EDT

Rockville, Md. —
Many “tea party” activists staunchly oppose big government, except when it is warring, wiretapping, or waterboarding. A movement that started out denouncing government power apparently has no beef with some of the worst abuses of modern times.

Unfortunately, there is scant evidence that most tea partyers have studied the copies of the Constitution they generously hand out to bystanders.

At a Tax Day tea party in Rockville, Md., the speaking venue was draped with a huge banner: “Tired of Big Government?” Members of the “Tyranny Response Team” stood near the front of the rally with their official blue T-shirts. Giant American flags and ones with “Don’t Tread on Me” (with a coiled rattlesnake) were carried around by men with tri-corn hats. Political campaigns busily sold “9/11 Remembrance” bracelets.

And yet, the crowd of 300 seemed most outraged that the US government is not being sufficiently aggressive in using its power.

Ken Timmerman, the author of “Preachers of Hate: Islam and the War on America” and other hawkish books, declaimed that the US government must take every step to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Mr. Timmerman denounced the Obama administration for being soft on Tehran and urged support for legislation to impose harsh sanctions on Iran. Timmerman previously advocated a US naval blockade of Iran, which he claimed was planning a nuclear attack on the United States.

Running through a litany of President Obama’s greatest failings, Timmerman denounced him for forcing US agents to “stop using enhanced interrogation methods. Has that made us safer?”

“No!” the crowd hollered indignantly.

Jeffrey Kuhner, a local talk-show host, sneered that Obama “has found his inner Muslim” and raged against his bowing to foreign leaders and kings. He complained that Obama has “taken over college loans,” and warned that illegal immigrants could be “the shock troops of Obama’s socialist revolution.” The crowd ate it up.

One of the MCs gushed about how he and everyone else in the crowd loved the police. There was not a word spoken about the video released earlier that week showing a nearby horrendous police beating of an innocent University of Maryland college student.

The rally featured a string of Republican candidates praising fiscal responsibility and denouncing the national debt. One would have thought that it had been 50 years, rather than 15 months, since the Republicans controlled the White House.

There was almost no dissent from any of the 300 attendees. One 50-something man in a faded green T-shirt walked around with a handmade sign declaring, “Stop the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – Bring Our Troops Home Now!” He told me that almost no one he’d talked agreed with his message.

Much more in tune with the crowd was the 20-something woman carrying a sign: “PROUD to be the Military Super Power.”

The fact that the cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq thus far roughly equals the projected cost of the first decade of Obama’s health-care program is irrelevant. Military spending is viewed as holy water by many activists who otherwise despise Washington. While tea party activists rage over Obama’s alleged lies, they ignore the Bush administration’s deceptive justification to attack Iraq.

None of the speakers criticized the warrantless wiretaps that the National Security Agency began during the Bush administration. The feds’ vacuuming up thousands of Americans’ phone calls and e-mails without a warrant seems to be a nonissue for these folks. Perhaps some tea party leaders hope that Republicans will soon be in position to use such powers to surveil the left.

There are many decent Americans who understandably feel that the government has become too powerful and oppressive. Yet, seeking enlightenment from most tea party speakers is like searching in a dark room for a black cat that isn’t there.

Many of the attendees seemed to hate liberals far more than they loved liberty. A CBS/New York Times poll conducted in April showed that two-thirds of tea party members have a favorable opinion of Sarah Palin, and 57 percent have a favorable opinion of George W. Bush. Denouncing big government while approving of President Bush is like denouncing immodesty while sunning oneself on a nude beach. After all, it was Bush who championed the prescription drug benefit for seniors that adds $7 trillion to Washington’s unfunded liabilities.

Some of the Republican incumbents endorsed by tea party organizations have been champions of “enhanced interrogation.” As long as the feds don’t announce specific plans to begin torturing card-carrying conservative activists, why worry?

If tea party activists cannot vigorously oppose torture and other high crimes, then counting on them to stalwartly resist any government policy that doesn’t mulct their paycheck is folly.

America needs real champions of freedom – not poorly informed Republican accomplices. Either tea partyers should become more principled or they should ditch their Gadsden flags and wear T-shirts of the lobbying group that organizes the rally they attend.

James Bovard is the author of “Attention Deficit Democracy,” “Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty,” and other books. He’s also a policy adviser to the Future of Freedom Foundation.


12 Responses to Tea Party: Pro-Torture, Pro-War, Pro-Freedom?

  1. Chuck Dahmer April 23, 2010 at 2:12 pm #

    Jim. I’m not a tea-party-er. I often call attention to these same contradictions coming from people declaring, “I’m for small government and liberty but…” just before advocating for intervention in business or foreign affairs.

    To my mind, the minute the media and politicians turned tea party into a movement, it was dead.

    The devil is not in the details, it’s in the principles. Principles are uncompromising. They always apply. Adopting them for the sake of convenience won’t work.

  2. Dirk W. Sabin April 23, 2010 at 6:20 pm #

    Denouncing Big Government while claiming support for George W. Bush is a lot crazier than claiming modesty while sun-bathing on a nude beach. No…this is a far greater cognitive dissonance. It’s like exclaiming ones principles of sacrifice and loyalty while resigning from an office elected into before jetting off to a first class junket into Media Celebrity.

    But then, who stands on principle anymore? It’s such a constraining thing and gets in the way of a proper message.

  3. Jim April 23, 2010 at 8:00 pm #

    Ya, principles wouldn’t pass the focus group testing.

  4. Jean April 25, 2010 at 3:09 pm #

    So, let me get this straight, they hate big government but only under Democratic leadership. But yet, this same Democractic leadership is continuing the fight in Afghanistan, continuing the occupation of Iraq, and is still rattling the sabres against Iran.
    GW gave us the biggest wealth distribution program in American history, and piggybacking on that Obama is contiuning the government take over of health care.
    And according to Sibel Edmonds, the famed ex-FBI translator turned biggest pain in the ass for biggest government lovers, has stated that she thought GW’s adminstration was secretative, but Obama is passing him in nearly everything that has been presented concerning whistleblowers.
    To be honest, I hope this Tea Party movement dies, and in it’s place a far more principled group arises. One that backs the sovergnity of the individual, and basically puts the government back where it belongs. DEFENDING EVERY INDIVIDUALS RIGHTS!!
    Jim, I hope you’re ignoring those blowhards.

  5. Jim April 25, 2010 at 10:07 pm #

    Jean, I am mystified at the distinctions many of the Tea Partiers draw regarding Bush and Obama.

    I hope that a more principled opposition to Leviathan can promptly arise – but I am not optimistic.

  6. Brian Wilson April 26, 2010 at 6:29 am #

    It is unfortunate that Mr. Bovard cannot see the forest through the trees…>>>

    Finally! The Tea Party movement has its long-lost leader: Mrs. Malaprop!

    What a magnificent cacophony of aggressive ignorance.

    We can applaud those in the “movement” who actually picked up and (allegedly) read the Constitution. Sadly,”Reading For Comprehension”has not been a part of the Government School kurikulum for years.

    “I can explain it to you, but I can’t understand it for you”.

    Brian Wilson

  7. Chris Baker April 26, 2010 at 5:47 pm #

    I attended some of the first tea parties. They were truly principled, as they were protests in the fall of 2008 against the federal bailouts. Those people were mostly “Ron Paul Red Teamers.”

    The movement was hijacked and taken over with hardly a fight. There is one element you forget, Jim. A lot of these people also want to “secure the border.” They are the types who consider Ramos and Compean “heroes.”

  8. Ryan April 27, 2010 at 7:37 pm #

    “Gary P: Bouvard, you are a liberal idiot. Warring, wiretapping, or waterboarding.”


    I personally thought this line of your’s was quite clever and very true. A number of these folks really are against only certain types of govt. spending.

    Too bad these idiots don’t seem to know who you are. Apparently, their computer skills are confined to listening to frauds like Limbaugh and the others who want to hijack them for the Stupid party. In short, we see here a massive outbreak of “hannitization”.

    On the other hand, those comments read like a good number I’ve received on Town Hall and for a brief period, “Free” Republic, so I know how it feels to be misunderstood. 😉

  9. Sean O'Neil May 1, 2010 at 2:50 pm #

    Jim — it’s been a while since I left a comment here but I’ve been reading you pretty frequently since my last comment. I’m glad you wrote the Xtian Sci essay and also glad you’ve brought our attention to the responses to that essay. We’re in a really bad situation here in America right now — I agree with what Chris Baker says in this thread, that the recent Tea Party movement started out of good, principled objections to Fed Govt misdeeds, but somehow it’s been co-opted by forces who only want to divide the disaffected people who might unite under a Tea Party banner.

    It’s frustrating as hell to watch this devolution.

  10. Isa Kocher May 6, 2010 at 11:03 am #

    you can spot the tea baggers so easily. they can’t spell. can’t carry an argument to a conclusion. offer no solutions. know no facts. engage in personal and four letter word foul mouth abuse. most teabaggers worked for the government and have government pensions, and live on government subsidies. e.g. michelle bachman gets millions from the department of agriculture. i am a usa service connected 100% disabled american veteran and i sacrificed my life so they can spread hate. thanks guys.

  11. anonymous November 15, 2011 at 11:54 pm #

    Thank you for these informative comments. I have had similar observations and without bias, similar conclusions. Glad to know it just wasn’t me.


  1. BOVARD » Tea Party Pushback - April 23, 2010

    […] Christian Science Monitor op-ed is spurring some uplifting responses in various postings around the […]