- The Washington Times - Monday, May 3, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

THAT’S NO ANGRY MOB, THAT’S MY MOM: TEAM OBAMA’S ASSAULT ON TEA-PARTY, TALK-RADIO AMERICANS

By Michael Graham

Regnery, $27.95, 244 pages

Reviewed by Wes Vernon

Emergency alert! All over this country, “angry mobs” are gathering in the streets, the parks, city centers, town-hall meetings, local meeting houses of all types. They are on the march. Hide the children. They don’t even demand same-sex marriage or that we turn our thermostats down or turn in our SUVs for deathtrap kiddy-cars, freeze in the dark or live on tofu. Why, they don’t even want their children or grandchildren to live in the poorhouse because of government’s current profligate ways! Would you believe they fuss about the idea of government bureaucrats coming between you and your doctor? Weird.

But that isn’t the half of it. They even expect the people they send to Washington to abide by some silly idea that they actually work for the taxpayers, even though our taxes pay their salaries. Shocking! These people are dangerous. They must be stopped.

Such tongue-in-cheek alarmism is the essence of the case for the Tea Party movement, as espoused in “That’s No Angry Mob, That’s My Mom.” The author, Michael Graham (currently a radio talk-show host in Boston) is best remembered in this area as a radio talker of the take-no-prisoners variety in Washington. Mr. Graham departed the airwaves at WMAL in 2005 because of a series of events that ultimately led to his dismissal.

Station management insisted Mr. Graham was not handed his talking papers specifically because of his clash with the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) but rather because he went public with his case at other venues such as Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox News. (Note: The man who fired Mr. Graham had been, in an earlier era, this writer’s assignment editor at CBS Radio, so I heard both sides.) Whatever the cause, the end result was what CAIR desired, and the group declared a victory upon the radio host’s exit.

So these days, he’s rattling some cages on Boston’s WTKK-FM, as a columnist for the Boston Herald and now on the national stage through his fulsome defense of the Tea Partiers. For Mr. Graham, this is partly personal. The book’s title was not the brainstorm of some Madison Avenue huckster. The “mom” in question really is the author’s.

Meet Patricia Graham - wife, grandmother, office manager, churchgoer, community volunteer “and in her spare time … ‘right wing domestic terrorist,’ ” says her author-son - himself a one-time stand-up comic whose sense of humor comes across in spades throughout these pages.

As for his mom, “How did this mild-mannered woman from Columbia, S.C., go from ‘happy homemaker’ to ‘hatemongering radical?’ ” asks the tongue-in-cheek writer. “She works forty-plus hours a week. She pays her bills and her taxes … keeps an eye on the neighbors’ house when they’re out of town, and she volunteers with local community groups.”

Mr. Graham describes the Tea Party and the town-hall gatherings (before liberal congressmen stopped holding them for fear that these dangerous “almost bizarrely ordinary” citizens would show up and ask unscripted questions.) Real oddballs like “retirees, military vets, small-business owners, and suburban families.” You have to watch those people. They might even scratch their heads and ask why their congressman votes one way in Washington and talks the exact opposite way when he’s back home.

Many of them have never before been active in politics, just too busy playing by the rules, raising families and assuming that government “of the people, by the people and for the people [would] not perish from this earth,” as Abe Lincoln famously said.

It’s not just his mom in South Carolina. Michael Graham himself has been involved in Tea Parties. He may have hit a raw nerve in identifying the underlying reason for the spontaneous and very loosely organized protest movement.

America, the author says, “he’s just not into you.”

“Every American president “has spoken out against his rivals, but I can’t think of another president who treated typical citizens this way. … No administration before Obama’s has cried ‘Hater!’ and released the dogs of [rhetorical] war upon the general population,” the book argues.

Mr. Graham says Tea Partiers sensed early-on that for the first time in our history, we have an American president “who actually doesn’t like Americans.” Surely this is no original thought. Putting all the pieces together, President Obama seems determined to make us just one of many among nations. No more “shining city on the hill,” as Ronald Reagan envisioned. This president, by his actions, has sent clear signals that he means to bring America down a peg or two. What the “O-bots,” as Mr. Graham calls them, did not anticipate is that public reaction would be so swift or massive.

Since this book went to the printers, ex-President Bill Clinton has inadvertently made Mr. Graham’s case that Tea Party mom ‘n’ pop protesters are slandered as potential inciters of violence. Mr. Clinton compared the current popular resentment of government overreach to similar complaints just before the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. At that time, the then-president orchestrated a liberal chorus that showered the blame on Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh.

The selective finger-wagging ignored the “Unabomber” captured in Montana, who had heavily underlined passages in Al Gore’s book “Earth in the Balance.” Mr. Clinton chose not to question whether his own vice president’s environmental extremism had incited the wanton taking of innocent lives in a series of bombings that lasted for years. Picking up on the current Clinton cue, media pundits write and talk as if they were hoping for Tea Party violence as an American version of the “Reichstag fire moment” that handed Hitler an excuse to galvanize public outrage at his critics.

Michael Graham writes the way he talks. His signature humor is welcome, even if some readers may wish for a few more timeouts for solemnity on the very serious subject matter. Overall, the book is a “hoot” and also an instructive tutorial on what drives the protests on behalf of “all bill-paying, mortgage-making, tax-paying, hard-working, family-protecting, neighborhood- watching, America-loving everyday citizens.” Their right to peaceful dissent is intact, the disapproval of the “O-Bots” notwithstanding.

Wes Vernon is a Washington-based writer and veteran broadcast journalist.

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