Thursday, October 20, 2011

Occupy Wall Street is no Tea Party

The media chorus is singing a new song this week in its anti-tea party echo chamber. It goes something like this: The law-breaking anarchists who want to tear America down are somehow just like law-abiding tea partiers — who are working tirelessly to build America back up.

This boneheaded comparison reminds me of what has now become an oft-repeated political euphemism. In 1988, during a vice presidential debate, Democratic candidate Sen. Lloyd Bentsen said to his Republican opponent, Sen. Dan Quayle, “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy; Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

So despite the risk of sounding cliché here, I say to the small band of misfits and anarchists now occupying Wall Street: I was one of tens of thousands of patriotic Americans who were there at the beginning of the tea party movement. I stood shoulder to shoulder with tea partiers all across this country. And you, who are occupying Wall Street and trying to tear America down, are no tea partiers.

The tea party movement started spontaneously from the rant of CNBC’s Rick Santelli on Feb. 19, 2009. His words resonated with millions across the country, and his spontaneous call for a “tea party” spurred tens of thousands to action.

Within a week, in close to 50 locations across the country, almost 40,000 people turned out to protest the U.S. government’s fiscal irresponsibility. By Tax Day in April 2009, the movement had grown to millions — and there were more than 850 peaceful, lawful protests across the nation attended by more than a million people.

The movement was organic, fast moving and had a cogent message: It’s time for fiscal responsibility in government.

Tea party rallies have always felt like “parties” — and safe and clean ones at that. Unlike protesters in New York, I can find no reports of tea partiers being arrested, individually or en masse, at the thousands of tea parties across the country with millions of attendees that have taken place for years now.

We are not lawbreakers, we don’t hate the police, we don’t even litter. A quick glance at the TV reveals the sharp contrast to the Wall Street occupiers.

In recent days, I’ve been repeatedly asked by reporters, “Does the comparison now being made in the media between the tea party and the Wall Street protesters bother you?”

My answer is an unequivocal: “Hell yes, it bothers me.”

It bothers me because it groups millions of patriotic tea partiers, who want to build America back up, together with a bunch of criminals who want to tear America down.

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