The term “tea-bagger” is like uttering the “n” word, some say. Though he aspires to promote civility, evidence has surfaced that President Obama has added “tea-bagger” to his public lexicon, though it’s considered a cheap and tawdry insult by “tea party” activists. Watchdogs at Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) barked when they saw the proof, tucked in a sneak peak of Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter’s new book, “The Promise: President Obama, Year One,” to be released May 18. Indeed, it appears the president joined certain partisan critics and the liberal media, and took the tea-bag plunge.
“This remark is the equivalent of using the ‘n’ word. It shows contempt for middle America, expressed knowingly, contemptuously, on purpose, and with a smirk. It is indefensible to use this word. The president knows what it means, and his people know what it means. The public thought we reached a new low of incivility during the Clinton administration. Well, the Obama administration has just outdone them,” ATR president Grover Norquist tells Inside the Beltway.
There is not always parity in these situations. There were outraged calls for Rep. Dan Burton’s resignation and massive press coverage after the Indiana Republican called President Clinton a “scumbag” during the Monica Lewinsky matter in 1998.
The offending passage that started the tea-bagger shuffle? Mr. Alter wrote, “Obama said that the unanimous House vote against the Recovery Act ‘set the tenor for the whole year’: ‘That helped to create the tea-baggers and empowered that whole wing of the Republican Party to where it now controls the agenda for the Republicans.’ ”
Mr. Obama himself was recently ruing the contentious state of politics, noting Saturday at a college commencement speech, “We’ve got politicians calling each other all sorts of unflattering names. Pundits and talking heads shout at each other. The media tends to play up every hint of conflict, because it makes for a sexier story.”
The watchdogs, incidentally got their advance look at the book in Mike Allen’s “Playbook” in Politico.
JUST SO YOU KNOW
“Drill” is not a dirty word among U.S. voters, even after the big BP oil spill. A Zogby poll reveals that 63 percent support the expansion of offshore drilling. But they’re prudent: 62 percent also support President Obama’s decision to suspend those plans pending an inquiry on the disaster. The poll of 3,100 likely voters was conducted April 30 to May 3.
Will the treatment of Times Square car-bomb suspect Faisal Shahzad — closely monitored by the press — amplify the controversy surrounding a proposed trial of Khaliq Sheikh Mohammed in New York City, and the treatment of terrorists in general?
“I strongly believe that Shahzads recent arrest will spur further controversy about trying terrorists in civilian courts, and I think that that is a very appropriate response. This weekends foiled plot proves that NYC remains an active target for terrorists, and we are incredibly fortunate that the last several terror attempts have been thwarted,” Michael Wildes tells the Beltway.
Mr. Wildes is a former federal prosecutor who recently represented Kwame James — the Trinidad-born hero who subdued “Shoe Bomber” Richard Reid — in his quest for U.S. citizenship.