Tea Time in Tennessee

Pols and pundits on the National Tea Party Convention

Hundreds of grass-roots conservative activists have made a pilgrimage to Nashville this weekend to kick off the first ever National Tea Party Convention.

Event organizers say by hosting seminars on leadership and voter registration – and a keynote address Saturday by Sarah Palin –  tea partiers plan to show how their decentralized movement in opposition to President Obama’s economic policies is “growing up.” But amid reports of infighting within the movement and high-profile defections by convention sponsors and speakers, here’s what pols and pundits are saying about the state of the Tea Party nation and its prospects for achieving game changing success:

  • "The race for America is on right now," former GOP Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo told convention goers Thursday on Day 1. "You have launched the counter-revolution."
  • John Avlon, a former speechwriter for Rudy Giuliani and the author of “Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America,” debunks these “myths” about tea partiers: That they are all independents, wingnuts, libertarians, purchased by GOP donors. “There is common-sense anger at unsustainable deficits that are seen as generational theft,” he writes.
  • “If the activists truly want to reduce the deficit, they should be demanding that the two parties work together,” writes USA Today in an editorial. Despite Obama’s stimulus, the Wall Street bailout and two wars, non-medical spending is still a smaller percentage of the economy than it was during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, the paper notes. “In that sense, the Tea Partiers are barking up the wrong trees. If their goal is to control spending, they should be demanding curbs in Medicare and answering President Obama's call for health care reform with counterproposals heavier on cost control,” they write.
  • On USA Today's op-ed page, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) predicts the movement will help elect a “new generation of citizen legislators.” But he tells CNN he isn't attending the convention because he doesn’t believe one group can lay claim to the movement. “If someone thinks they can get their arms around this and be in charge of it, I think they've maybe been to Michigan, smoking medical marijuana or whatever,” he said.
  • Jeff Woods, blogging for the Nashville Scene, mocks the mainstream media for expecting crazies to have descended on Nashville. “A little far-right nuttiness would do nicely to put some sparkle in their copy, but this convention might disappoint,” he writes.
  • A.B. Stoddard, writes for The Hill’s Pundits blog that “what is more interesting than what happens at the convention this week will be what happens in the coming months as we see the Tea Parties and the Republican Party build a successful relationship before this fall's midterm elections. Or not.”
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